The government’s catapult network, which aims to bridge the gap between business and research, is set to be expanded under new plans unveiled by business secretary Vince Cable on Wednesday.
Two new centres will be created in 2015/16. One is an energy systems centre, designed to help innovative UK businesses tackle the challenge of creating energy systems that meet future supply and demand, both in the UK and overseas. The other is a diagnostics for stratified medicine catapult, which will help identify and provide the right care for individual patients, allowing businesses to develop new treatments and reduce the cost of healthcare.
The two catapults currently consist of seven technology and innovation centres covering a range of sectors. The already established catapults are: high value manufacturing, satellite applications, cell therapy, offshore renewable energy, future cities, transport systems and the connected digital economy.
In addition to the new centres, an extra £7m is being invested in the high value manufacturing catapult. In its first year the centre has been involved in 830 projects and engaged with almost 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.
Speaking during a visit to the satellite applications catapult, Cable said, “Catapult centres have made a significant contribution over the last year, supporting businesses and developing new technologies. The total public and private sector investment in the catapults so far is £1.4 billion and further investment will follow.
“By committing to investment in new technologies now, we are laying the foundations for high-growth businesses of the future. This will allow them to grow, take on more employees and keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”
The Technology Strategy Board, which established the catapults, recently published its annual review of the network. The review highlighted some of the successes seen during the last year. This included the role of the satellite applications catapult played in the development of WeatherSafe. The company has developed an app, which allows Rwandan farmers to access weather information, improve the management of their coffee crop and fight pests.
The cell therapy catapult is also getting ready to open its new £7.5m laboratory at Guy’s Hospital, London. It has already confirmed collaborations with GlaxoSmithKline, the UK Stem Cell Foundation and Loughborough University.
The Catapult network can help innovative UK businesses work alongside scientists and engineers to transform “high potential” ideas into new products and services.