The government has pledged to increase funding for innovative businesses by up to £60 million, with investment in fields such as energy efficient computing and the internet of things.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts announced at the Innovate UK 2013 event in London the second wave of funding as part of the Biomedical Catalyst programme, backed by the Technology Strategy Board and Medical Research Council (MRC). The latest funding will involve a £47.2 million investment for 51 bio-medical tech start-ups, aiming to help bridge the ‘valley of death’, which refers to the difficulties many innovative companies face in turning R&D into commercial success.
Willetts also announced a further £12 million of TSB funding, including a £6.2 million competition to help promote the development of the ‘internet of things’, with eight projects to develop systems in areas such as transport, energy and the environment. There will also be a £1.25 million competition for the development of energy efficient computing devices, alongside a further £1.15 million for nine businesses to develop energy harvesting technology to help extend battery life.
“Investing in new ideas for technology now means that the UK will maintain its position as a global leader for innovation,” said Willetts. “Through our life sciences strategy and Innovation and Research Strategy we are laying the foundations for future financial benefits in these high growth areas of technology.”
He added: “The Biomedical Catalyst has proved to be a real success in leveraging additional private finance and it is a model I am keen to see replicated across other technology areas. This will help to keep our world leading technology industries at the front of the global race for research and development.”
However, Colin Bannister, CTO at CA Technologies UK and Ireland, said that while the investment is welcome, the UK still lags behind others nations with regards to investing in innovative technology.
“Innovation lies at the heart of the UK economic recovery," Bannister said. "Both public and private sectors must promote innovative thinking within their own organisations and more broadly across UK business. Successful organisations that grow in recessionary times are the same ones that continue to invest in innovation through-out the economic downturn.
“But, I also offer a cautionary note. Recent research commissioned by CA Technologies implies that the UK is lagging behind other leading economies regarding the amount it invests in innovation. For example, just 18 percent of IT spend in the UK is devoted to innovation, only the US has a lower figure. Interestingly, Brazil – one of the few growth economies in recent years - leads the way with nearly a third of IT budget invested in innovation.”
He added: “Funding initiatives – such as these announced by the Government today – are essential. But the onus lies on us all to ensure that we devote other resources such as time, skills and training to ensure that the UK meets the ‘Innovation Imperative’ challenge.“
In December the TSB announced that it would make £10 million in funding available to companies conducting R&D in areas such as advanced materials, biosciences, electronics, sensors and photonics, and ICT. In July 2012 the TSB announced a wide-ranging programme to invest £250 million in innovative projects, such as smart city initiatives.