UK panel lays out plans for boosting business R&D

23 Nov 2005 | News | Update from University of Warwick
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

A new British technology-funding board laid out a strategy for boosting business-led innovation - and gave a few hints of how it will spend its money.

In a report today, the UK Technology Strategy Board said it should move to funding a few larger R&D projects - £10 million each – than before. Areas it highlighted as needing more R&D support included intelligent transport, network security and low-carbon energy development.

The board, comprised of venture capitalists and R&D directors from some of the leading technology-based companies, was set up a year ago by the government with a brief to reformulate the UK’s approach to innovation. Unlike most bodies that come out of this mould, TSB is not a mere talking shop, but has control of a £200 million per annum Technology Programme with which to give its outpourings material form. The Technology Programme gives grants for collaborative research and development between industry and academe and supports Knowledge Transfer Networks, the government’s latest technology transfer vehicle.

Since its formation the board has spent its time understanding the nature of the task, the levers at its disposal to bring about change, and formulating the outline of a policy. Graham Spittle, the board’s chairman, and Director of IBM’s Hursley Laboratory, says in his introduction to the report. “We are now in position to really drive the agenda forward, to deliver a technology strategy for wealth creation and to position the UK as a global leader in innovation.”

The report makes four recommendations for how it should position itself and work with other bodies, in particular the research councils and regional development agencies, to further develop the strategy. The key to success will be the extent to which UK business can engage with and exploit in-house and external technology development to create wealth.

In allocating the money in the Technology Programme, it is clear, even at this stage, that there are areas where the resources are insufficient to maximize the opportunity, says the report. “One area that stands out is energy. Moving to a low carbon economy is one the main challenges of the early 21st century and it represents a huge opportunity for UK business.” The TSB says its approach will be to engage business in a strategy that encourages greater overall investment in R&D and new forms of collaboration, in a way that complements existing private and public spending in R&D.

Current spending in the Technology Programme is skewed towards smaller projects, with over 80 per cent of 262 in progress having a value of less than £2 million. The TSB says it should move towards funding larger projects, which integrate a number of technologies. These are christened innovation platforms, and the report proposes the first two, with £10 million funding each, should be in intelligent transport systems and network security.

In conclusion the report says, “Many companies in the UK need to innovate more. We aim to provide the environment where innovative companies can thrive.”

Government news release

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