Graham Spittle, chair of the Technology Strategy Board

Innovation key to tackling 'growth emergency' says TSB

The UK faces a ‘growth emergency’ that can only be tackled through innovation, according to the head to the Technology Strategy Board.

Speaking at Innovate 11, a conference held earlier this week in London, Graham Spittle, chair of the TSB, said: “It's very clear that we have a growth emergency, and we need innovation not only as the long game, but also as the short game for growth. It is the only game. Commercialisation that can be ramped up quickly is absolutely crucial.“

The TSB, which span out of the then Department of Trade and Industry four years ago to act as the UK’s innovation agency, has since, with partners, invested more than £2bn in the UK’s capacity to innovate. More than £200m of this is begin spent on a series of Technology and Innovation Centres that will help focus our expertise in high value manufacturing, offshore renewable energy and cell therapies.

Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation, agreed on the importance of   innovation to the UK’s growth prospects.

“Where are we economically?” he asked. “We are in trouble. The only way out is a wholly new approach to innovation and enterprise.”

But he questioned the current level of investment in the Technology and Innovation Centres.

“To do this seriously we need to look to what Germany is doing with the Fraunhofer and Max Planck Institutes, where they are spending between three and €5 billion a year,” he said. “We're looking to spend 5% of that by 2014. When we get the budget above £1bn or £2bn then it will be serious.”

Vince Cable, Secretary of State of Business, Innovation and Skills, used the conference to announce that the first TIC, focusing on high-value manufacturing, is now open for business. It will receive public investment of more than £140m over the next six years.

“There is a clear rationale for backing innovation in manufacturing,” Cable said. “The sector contributes disproportionately to UK productivity and exports.”

The manufacturing TIC is a network of seven manufacturing research and development facilities throughout the UK, with expertise in everything from the manufacture of civil nuclear components to  reel to reel processes. A small core organisation will be set up to help people find the manufacturing expertise they need.

Cable also announced a further £15m funding to accelerate the commercialisation of low emissions vehicles, to be offered through a funding competition due to start in January. 

The TSB also announced that, working with Scottish Enterprise, they would be making £17.75m available through competitive funding for R&D projects in advanced materials, biosciences, electronics, photonics and electrical systems, information and communications technology and nanoscale technologies.

And Science Minister David Willetts announced that the first £8.5m of investment from the UK’s National Space Technology Programme is now available as matching funds for projects with industry on developing commercial products and services using space technology or space‐derived data.

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