Government announces £200m investment for Technology and Innovation Centres

Today, the Prime Minister announced in a speech to the CBI that more than £200m will be invested by the Government in a network of elite Technology and Innovation Centres to drive growth in the UK’s most high-tech industries.  Bridging the gap between universities and businesses and helping to commercialise the outputs of Britain’s world-class research base.   Click here for the announcement from BIS

In March, PraxisUnico issued a statement assessing the significance of the Hauser Report (and Fraunhofer-like Institutes) to knowledge transfer and research commercialisation.  Here’s an extract from this statement, “It is clear that Lord Mandelson, who commissioned the report, favours the German system of Fraunhofer Institutes.  Previous attempts to copy that system in the UK (e.g. Faraday Centres) have failed and Hauser is careful to explain that what works in Germany may not be appropriate here.  He notes that in the UK since 2008 the Regional Development Agencies and devolved governments have invested more than £150m in over 50 Technology Innovation Centres.  Whilst some of these have already shown signs of success and sustainability (e.g. advanced manufacturing in Sheffield), many have been constrained by insufficient funding, duplication and a too narrow geographical focus.  They have also been constrained by the dimensions of the existing UK industrial base.” 

Secher concludes, “Is there a danger that the biggest breakthroughs might fall through such a network?  When César Milstein invented monoclonal antibodies or Fred Sanger DNA sequencing, these would not have met Hauser’s criteria.  The recognition of the importance of serendipity and the ability flexibly to set up (and close down!) centres, as science develops, must be taken into account.  It is the ability to create demand which marks some of the greatest developments, not simply being a narrow servant of the market. Most importantly, the investment needs to add to university knowledge transfer and improve the demand from British industry for new research (as identified so clearly by Richard Lambert in his 2003 report).  To build a knowledge economy we need, not a reinforcement of old industries, but an industrial base that is aligned with our research potential; that can build on the success of university knowledge transfer; and that fosters a demand creation agenda.”

The PraxisUnico position on Technology and Innovation Centres has not changed since this statement was made. PraxisUnico is pleased that the Government has recognised the importance of a sound science and technology research base for the future growth of the economy, and reiterates its hope that any changes do not put at risk the lead that the UK has built in knowledge transfer which is now the envy of the world.