Calls for massive investment in UK's scientific innovation base

10 November 2014

A review of the UK’s network of catapult centres for technology innovation centres has called for major expansion of the programme into new areas.

The UK has a network of seven catapult centres. Each one is created as a centre of technology and innovation in a specific field, bringing together academic and commercial research and development, with a view to driving economic growth. They include Cell Therapy, Connected Digital Economy and Satellite Applications; one of two new catapults due to open next year is Precision Medicine.

The catapult network was originally proposed by Dr Hermann Hauser (a noted technology entrepreneur) in 2010, who has now produced a formal review of the network to date for Innovate UK, part of the department for Business, Industry and Skills.

Dr Hauser has now produced a review of the catapult network, in which he calls for 30 additional catapults to be established by 2030 at a rate of one or two per year, in fields including translational genetics and synthetic biology, as well as non-animal technology and smart and resilient infrastructure.

This expansion, alongside sustained investment in the catapults and improved engagement with small businesses and universities, was said to be essential to create a translational infrastructure in the UK that could allow it to compete as a global leader. Alongside ongoing investment in the science base, these measures were proposed as being necessary to successfully ‘rebalance the UK economy’.

It was also proposed that the current catapult funding model, which combines public funding with income from competitively-won commercial and public-private research and development contracts, should be retained. The total running costs of the proposed expanded network would be £400 million per year, requiring Innovate UK’s budget to be approximately doubled to £1 billion per year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable MP said that the review’s findings would feed into the government’s new Science and Innovation Strategy to be released in December 2014.

Hermann Hauser commented: "The UK is playing catch up with the best innovation systems in the world in translational infrastructure, so I was very encouraged to see how rapidly we are closing the gap".

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