Government invites tech research centre proposals

The government has fleshed out plans that will see £200m given to organisations to set up centres to commercialise technology research
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The UK government has invited proposals for centres to promote and commercialise technology research in manufacturing.

The centres will be established over four years, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said in a statement on Thursday. Called technology innovation centres, they will have the aim of bringing research to market. The scheme will be funded by a £200m grant.

"Britain's economy has been too reliant on the financial sector and we need to diversify as we go for sustainable growth," said business minister Vince Cable in a statement. "It is crucial that we support UK industry to turn the discoveries of our world-leading researchers into world-beating products and services."

The centres will be established and overseen by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), a non-governmental agency that reports to BIS. The first centre to benefit from the £200m funds will concentrate on commercialising technology research into "high-value manufacturing", which BIS defines as operations that have a good financial performance, high social value, and strategic importance in the regional and national economy.

The first centre will have a specific geographical location, but will be virtually linked to other organisations with similar research interests, a TSB spokesman told ZDNet UK on Friday.

"The idea is to bridge the gap between academia and business, and to commercially exploit current and future research," said the spokesman.

Government funding
The £200m funding, which was announced by prime minister David Cameron in October, will mainly go towards set-up costs for the centres, said the spokesman. A third of the funding for the centres will come from the central government grant, a third will come from further public-sector bodies — either from UK research councils or EU funding mechanisms — while the final third will be supplied by business.

Businesses will pay to have research work carried out at the centres, said the spokesman.

TSB expects existing technology centres, groups of businesses and universities to bid to set up the new technology centres. Existing centres include the UK Innovation Research Centre in Cambridge and the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Centre.

The new centres will be staffed by participating organisations, plus external recruitment, said the spokesman.

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