The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has been given a record £440m budget this year.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will confirm the funding boost today, which represents an increase of more than £50m on last year.
The main technology areas that will benefit from the investment include renewable energy, future cities, advanced materials, satellites, digital technologies and healthcare.
Willetts says: “The UK has some of the most innovative business in the world. The £440m budget means that there will be more funding available than ever before for businesses across the country to bid for and help turn their ideas into reality, bridging the so called ‘valley of death’.
“The TSB is making a real difference in driving growth and keeping the UK at the forefront of the global race for innovation. Over 60 per cent of funding is going to small and medium sized businesses, meaning that there are great opportunities for businesses to thrive, grow and generate jobs.
“The TSB works across business, academia and government, helping companies take ideas through to commercialisation. Independent research shows that every £1 invested by the TSB returns £7 to the UK economy.”
The 2013-14 Delivery Plan, released this morning, sets out how the TSB priorities for the coming year and explains commitments to invest over £300m through 75 new competitions that will help fund innovative projects across the economy.
Some £55m will go to programmes in the healthcare sector, £25m to energy, £20m to transport and £25m to support initiatives in high value manufacturing, with funding allocated to a variety of tools and programmes.
Chief executive of the TSB, Iain Gray, says: “Everything we do is driven by the desire to help UK business bring new ideas and technologies to market and so support economic growth.
“This Delivery Plan outlines the range of ways in which we do that, from direct funding through to access to expertise, facilities and finance. The UK is a dynamic, innovative place to live and do business. The TSB aims to make it the very best place to innovate.”
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) remain a key focus for the agency, with the budget for the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which gives SMEs access to public sector procurement contracts, to be increased to £100m in 2013/14 and £200m the following year.
The innovation vouchers scheme, which gives businesses the chance to access specialist expertise, will be expanded, and the SMART awards budget, at £40m, will continue to provide SMEs with grants to allow them access to new markets and invest in R&D.
And the TSB will also continue to invest in the national network of Catapults, centres of innovation and expertise where companies can use state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to develop new products and services.
Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, says: “The announcement of record levels of funding for the TSB is a positive move that should provide a boost the UK’s long-term competitiveness.
“Innovation is a key driver of growth both for individual companies and the economy as a whole, but it is a challenging, risky process. The TSB plays an important role in supporting innovation by providing access to expertise, facilities and funding.
“SMEs face some of the most significant barriers to innovation, therefore it is particularly good news to see that the Innovation Vouchers scheme will be expanded, as it is an effective way to improve SMEs’ access to research institutions’ facilities and expertise.
“However, record levels of innovation funding can’t just be for this year. The Spending Review has to provide certainty as well as sufficient funding, to ensure these critical programmes are maintained over the long term.”
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) welcomed the announcement.
Paul Davies, IET head of policy, says: “This is welcome news, particularly the expansion in the SBRI which we have been promoting for several years.
The IET believes the SBRI is an important tool to help the UK economy rebalance towards manufacturing but is concerned the scheme will not be effective unless it is widely promoted and used by Government departments.
David Evans, chair of the Innovation and Emerging Technologies Policy Panel, says: “Not only must the Government ensure greater use of the SBRI through financial incentives for public bodies, but it is important that successful projects should be supported by follow-on procurement contracts.
"This will increase the number of SMEs awarded government contracts and will help to rebalance the economy. The SBRI will enable the UK to become a high technology exporter and help to develop the larger companies of tomorrow.”