Iain Gray's blog - 2 Feb 2009

From what I read and hear at the moment, there is a growing appreciation that if the UK is to emerge from the downturn in good shape, we must do all we can to encourage and support investment in business innovation. Innovation is not something that can be "turned on" quickly when conditions improve. Boosting such investment and focusing it on priority areas is necessary now; and that is at the heart of the Technology Strategy Board's actions in this economic climate.

A significant announcement for us last week - reflecting our focus on areas where we can maximise the technology and innovation behind large Government infrastructure investments - was the launch of the £10m competition in the retrofit of the country's older housing stock. Companies will be able to bid for contracts to work with social housing providers, developing innovative solutions to increase dramatically the environmental performance of existing homes.

Another major part of our role to increase business confidence in investing for the future is relating success stories. For example, last week we played a significant part in mounting the DIUS  ‘Building the Britain of the Future' Expo in London. Although this event had been pulled together quickly it was an effective celebration of innovative companies creating new products for future markets. Of the 20 or so exhibits almost half had received funding through the Technology Strategy Board. The audience also included many of the companies we work with.

The only real disappointment was that the expo couldn't be seen by a bigger audience. We'll be featuring exhibits on our own website, but it would have been good for more people to hear first hand the ideas and enthusiasm of the companies showcasing their technology, and be inspired.

The event did illustrate again how our role is about so much more than funding; even those companies not involved in funded projects with us were looking to work with our networks, identifying markets and future partners.

Although I didn't get the chance to talk to everyone I spent time with several exhibiting companies. Oxsensis, at Rutherford Appleton Labs, produce high temperature sensors for operating in harsh environments.  Runcorn-based ACAL Energy are developing a new type of low cost fuel cell system, and are currently looking for consortium partners for an entry in our hydrogen and fuel cells competition (as our work to drive collaboration pays off) .  

It was interesting to contrast the two flywheel energy storage solutions on show; at the event; Flybrid Systems and the Williams Hybrid Power solution.  These different technology solutions address slightly different markets but reinforce a UK technology lead in this important area of kinetic energy recovery in low carbon vehicle solutions.

I had a long chat with Hypertag, a global proximity marketing technology and service provider enabling brands to connect to consumers' mobile phones - with the potential to be huge. Other fascinating conversations included Clicks and Links and Second Places www.secondplaces.net  about the work they were doing on energy management - and Kizoom and Cityspace about their work with us on personalized travel information. Other exhibitors I will follow up in slower time.

During the evening debate (another great use for Twitter, with live questions fed to the panel) I was  struck by the reference to Edison, who said that in developing the light bulb, his 99 failures before succeeding were not in fact failures, but part of 100 steps to success.

The week finished in Glasgow at an evening dinner with SBAC Scotland. Companies around the table included Raytheon, Babcock, VT, Inter-Tec, Rolls, BAeSystems, Spirit, Glasgow University, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Engineering . Even though many were household names they had limited knowledge of the Technology Strategy Board or awareness of our current £24m High Value Manufacturing competition, We need to use all modes of communication to promote the opportunities available.

It's very encouraging to see the importance of innovation - and the communication of its successes - being recognised. Communication features strongly in our plans for the coming months.


Last updated on Friday 24 February 2012 at 10:37

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