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Lords’ report points to problems for innovation Catapults

08/02/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has said the Government backed innovation Catapults need better co-ordination to fulfil their potential.

Houses of Parliament

It has published a report, The contribution of innovation Catapults to delivering the R&D roadmap, that says the Government “lacks a detailed plan for delivering its R&D ambitions” and that funding for innovation does not match its ambition.

Catapults are not-for-profit, independent technology and innovation centres, which connect businesses with the UK's research and academic communities. They are designed to turn innovative ideas into commercial products.

They include the Connected Places Catapult, which is prominent in research around smart places, and the Digital Catapult for the development of digital solutions.

The reports says that, while they have the potential to contribute to regional development and support the ‘levelling up’ agenda, it needs better co-ordination. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which established the Catapults, must promote greater collaboration with industry and universities.

It also finds that that the current funding model, which relies heavily on applications to Research Council funds, is a barrier to their performance. They need more long term support to maximise their potential.

Lack of scale

Chair of the committee Lord Patel said: “The UK’s innovation system has all the necessary components to be successful, but it lacks the necessary scale and collaboration to fully realise economic benefits for the UK. The Catapult Network is an important national asset which has the potential to drive further innovation. The Catapults could have a much larger impact if their performance was not held back.

“To maximise the impact and potential of Catapults, collaboration should be strengthened with academics and industry. The Government should broaden access to funds and prioritise scaling up the network Catapults. Without urgent action to attract more private investment, the Government is unlikely to meets its R&D spending targets.”

 

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