A package of investment in the 8 great technologies of the future will accelerate high-tech progress from the lab to the marketplace

A package of investment in the 8 great technologies of the future will accelerate high-tech progress from the lab to the marketplace and help drive UK economic growth, Science and Universities Minister David Willetts announced.

In the Mountbatten lecture, hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, David Willetts set out how the UK will tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time, like climate change, energy storage, food production and population growth.

Mr Willetts announced that a £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, which will help new agricultural technologies bridge the so-called ‘valley of death’ between the lab and the marketplace, is open for bids. This will support one of the UK’s largest manufacturing sectors, with the entire agri-food supply chain estimated to contribute £96 billion to the UK economy and support more than 450,000 jobs.

This includes £10 million from the Department for International Development to support the transfer of technology and new products to developing countries.

Other funding includes:

  • £44 million for 2 projects to monitor crucial ocean currents in the North Atlantic. These currents shape Britain’s climate and weather patterns and this information could help meteorologists better predict the weather

  • £3.5 million in business-led projects to develop innovative tools and services like gene sequencing, for the UK synthetic biology industry

  • £15 million for King’s College London to create a Research and Innovation Hub within the new Cancer Centre at Guy’s Hospital

  • £10 million for the University of Glasgow to create a new Clinical Research Facility and imaging suite at South Glasgow Hospitals Campus

  • £10 million for the University of Southampton to build new engineering research facilities and infrastructure

  • £34 million investment in a new data research network and 4 administrative data research centres to help the UK get ahead in the global technology race

Science Minister David Willetts said:

The British scientific and technological revolution is something to be proud of. By investing in these 8 great technologies I firmly believe that the UK will continue to be at the forefront of the global technology race.

We are 1 of the most efficient research nations, and we get the best returns on our investment. We are investing to help translate our excellent science into commercially successful technologies which in turn boosts our businesses, creates jobs and drives economic growth.

The 8 great technologies are areas which experts have identified as, with the right investment, having the potential to make the greatest contribution to a high-tech, UK industrial revolution.

The new technologies help support the government’s wider industrial strategy – a long term approach across the whole of government to give businesses the confidence to invest and grow.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said:

This investment presents an exciting new opportunity to accelerate the development of the UK Agri-Tech sector.

It will help industry and research organisations to work much more closely together, transferring innovation from the laboratory to the farm to help us meet the challenge of increasing food production and reducing our impact on the natural environment.

Iain Gray, CEO of the Technology Strategy Board, added:

We welcome the Minister’s announcement of the Agri-Tech Catalyst, which will complement and build on the ongoing success of the Technology Strategy Board’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform, helping to ensure the success of near-market agricultural innovations.

We’re particularly pleased that the government has seen fit to build upon the catalyst model we and our partners have implemented with such success through the Biomedical Catalyst and look forward to continuing to support innovative UK companies working in the Agri-Tech field.

Professor Douglas Kell, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Chief Executive, also commented:

Advances in agricultural technologies have underpinned virtually the whole of human civilisation and development. Today, advances in relevant basic, strategic and applied science provide a wealth of opportunity for the UK, both economically and socially.

The launch of this Catalyst will help to translate our world-leading food and farming research into practice so that we can make the most of these opportunities and offer real contributions to global food security.

Notes to Editors

The 8 great technologies are big data, space and satellites, robotics and autonomous systems, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agri-science, advanced materials and energy storage.

The funding announcements confirmed today include:

1.The Agri-Tech Catalyst is being delivered by the Technology Strategy Board in partnership with BBSRC, and will now invite bids for round one. Funding will be provided for SMEs and academics to develop solutions to agri-tech challenges, such as adapting agricultural practices to cope with climate change, world-wide.

More details of the Agri-Tech Catalyst, including the application process for the various funding awards, can be found at the Technology Strategy Board

Press enquiries around the Agri-Tech Catalyst should be directed to Rod Alexander, at the Technology Strategy Board: rod.alexander@tsb.gov.uk, 07500 051101.

2.The two projects to monitor ocean currents – the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP) and the RAPID monitoring array – are co-ordinated by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the US’s National Science Federation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

For more information please contact Tamera Jones tane@nerc.ac.uk / 01793 411561.

3.UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), with £300 million announced in 2012, is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and provides between £10 million and £35 million towards strategic university R&D collaborations with businesses and charities, which have at least double that in private co-investment and build on a strong record of research excellence. Projects announced in October 2013, with details on HEFCE website.

  • King’s College London – a “Research and Innovation Hub” within the new “Cancer Centre” at Guy’s Hospital, in partnership with Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity (Value of project £162.8 million, co-funding £32.6 million, UKRPIF award £15 million)
  • University of Glasgow – new Clinical Research Facility and imaging suite at South Glasgow Hospitals Campus, in partnership with Wellcome Trust, Pebble Appeal, Life Technologies and others. (Value of project £58 million, co-funding £20.6 million, UKRPIF award £10 million)
  • University of Southampton – new engineering research facilities and infrastructure, part of the development of the “Boldrewood Campus”, in partnership with Lloyds Register. (Value of project £33.1 million, co-funding £22.1 million, UKRPIF award £10 million)

For more information please contact p.walker@hefce.ac.uk / 01179 317363

4.The government is investing over £60 million in Synthetic Biology including £50 million announced in the Autumn Statement of 2012, which includes:

  • £20 million to fund a new set of multidisciplinary research centres, supported by additional investment from BBSRC and EPSRC
  • £10 million for a synthetic biology seed fund managed by BBSRC for companies to commercialise research
  • £18 million from the research councils for DNA synthesis
  • £2 million to support training in synthetic biology.

https://www.innovateuk.org/-/tools-and-services-for-synthetic-biology

For more information please contact Rob Dawson Robert.Dawson@bbsrc.ac.uk / 01793 413204 or Richard Tibbenham richard.tibenham@epsrc.ac.uk / 01793 444404

5.This £34 million investment forms part of the government’s wider £189 million research initiative on ‘Big Data’. It is in direct response to the recommendations from the Administrative Data Taskforce (ADT) formed in December 2011 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust, and chaired by Sir Alan Langlands.

See the report “Improving Access for Research and Policy”

  • all appropriate measures to safeguard data at the data research centres are being taken
  • data will only be accessed by accredited users in safe settings
  • there will be no direct access to the data records of individuals

For more information please contact Susie Watts susie.watts@esrc.ac.uk / 01793 413119.

6.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

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