The state of the Catapult Nation

On Monday 28th January, the Technology Strategy Board, the Big Innovation Centre and the IET hosted a lunch to celebrate the progress of the Catapult network and the publishing of a BIC report on their overseas equivalents.  This is what I said to introduce the event.

"My Lords, ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome. I would like to thank Lord Broers very much for his kind words and for hosting us here at the House of Lords today.

I am Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, and I welcome you to this event all about Catapults. Before I introduce our other speakers let me take just a few minutes to set the scene.

At the Technology Strategy Board, our role is simple - to stimulate and support innovation in order to create economic growth. This is our single focus; we are the UK’s innovation agency

The establishment of Catapults further enhances what we can do to help a company innovate and prosper in their journey of what we call ‘Concept to Commercialisation’. Since we were set up in 2007 we have built a wide range of tools to help business innovate more rapidly and more effectively. These range from collaborative R&D projects; knowledge sharing networks; major demonstrator programmes; innovation vouchers; the SMART scheme providing small company grants for feasibility studies; or SBRI funding for innovative procurement solutions. Our goal is to help business through the various stages of their journey. The Catapult is a key tool in that journey.

In all, we have enabled around £2.5bn of investment in innovation.

We have invested in innovation projects with live contracts with over 4,000 businesses, and thousands more get help through our networks. Around half of our funding goes to SMEs, because smaller companies with potential are vital for growth.

We also know our investments bring results – for example studies of our early collaborative R&D programmes have shown that each £1 we invest typically gives a return of £7 to the UK economy, and their are strong indications that our later challenge led programmes double this return.

In 2009 it became clear that there was another big opportunity, a chance to fill a gap in the landscape of innovation support. The vision was for a network of technology and innovation centres which would host cutting-edge knowledge, expertise and equipment. Places where leading businesses and researchers could work side by side to turn great ideas into new products and services.

The vision was endorsed by Hermann Hauser. His 2010 report suggested that centres should be set up to focus on technology areas with global potential of billions of pounds, and where the UK had a competitive advantage so we could capitalise on the investment.

The concept took firmer shape, and in autumn 2010 the Prime Minister announced that this new network would be set up by the Technology Strategy Board.

Our job was to work with business to help decide what the centres would focus on and how they would work – and then to create this network which could transform the innovation ability of the UK.

Standing here today I can say that we have made huge progress. In the first months we developed the concept of Catapults, with an identity which expresses dynamism and energy as they help propel the UK towards future economic growth.

We identified the seven areas where a Catapult centre is the right thing at the right time – areas which the Technology Strategy Board had already identified as strategically important, and with real opportunity. They focus on: High Value Manufacturing and Offshore Renewable Energy – providing access to large scale equipment; Cell Therapies and Satellite Applications – fledgling industries with high costs; Connected Digital Economy – transfer of experiences from the Media and Creative Industries into other sectors; and Future Cities and Transport Systems – which are all about integration.

We opened the High Value Manufacturing Catapult in autumn 2011, and the other six are all being set up or starting work. During the course of this year all seven Catapults will all be open for business.

There are certainly precedents around the world. None is an exact parallel of Catapults, but all have very useful things to tell us. That is why I really welcome the Big Innovation Centre’s work looking at success factors. This was explored at a conference last autumn, and today the Centre is launching its report on the subject – which Birgitte Andersen, its Director, will discuss a little later.

This is important, because we must get it right. In the Catapults journey, working with people in government, business and academia has been vital, and today’s event has aimed to continue this - a chance for you to find out more, ask questions and contribute. We have with us Technology Strategy Board colleagues, members of our Governing Board and people from all the individual Catapults, so it is a great opportunity to discover more.

Before I finish I just want to thank everyone who has been involved with the programme so far. We have had invaluable input, and we have a great team on board with a real passion to make a difference. With public/private sector investment of around £1bn over the coming few years, Catapults represent one of the most important developments in UK innovation and technology, and will make a major impact for years - and I believe decades - to come.

So now I would like to ask Dick Elsy, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Neil Crockett CEO of the Connected Digital Economy Catapult to give their own perspective."



Last updated on Wednesday 06 February 2013 at 09:23

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