Catapult centres aim to help UK tech find new markets

Seven "catapult" centres across the UK are being set up by the government's innovation agency to help businesses commercialise their technology.

The UK government's innovation agency is setting up a national network of "catapult" centres that will allow technology companies to access new markets.

Read this

Open standards now mandatory across Whitehall

The shift to open standards, long promised by the Conservatives, is now finally underway. However, the Cabinet Office has warned the new rules won't mean an overnight change.

Read More

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which comes under the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, aims to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.

The TSB said on Monday that seven catapult centres will be in operation by the end of this year.

The centres are designed to be places where UK businesses and researchers can work together to commercialise new technologies.

"Catapults" focusing on high-value manufacturing and cell research are already in operation, while the other centres--which include connected digital economy , future cities, satellite applications, transport systems, and offshore renewable energy--are working out business plans.

The UK has great science capability but fails to translate that into commercial reality, Simon Edmond, director of the TSB's catapult program, told ZDNet.

"For a lot of companies that's quite an expensive process and they need a place where they can go and work with absolutely first-class facilities," he said. "The centres fill a gap in the innovation landscape that we haven't had for a while."

The centres will receive in excess of £1 billion over the next few years from government and industry: Prime Minister David Cameron already pledged to support the catapult program with a £200 million (US$317 million) investment that is being made between 2010 and 2014.

A report on technology and innovation centres (PDF), published on Monday by the Big Innovation Centre, studies similar initiatives in Europe, such as the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and the Finnish Technical Research Centre, to see what the UK can learn from them.