2022: Catalysing the UK’s journey as an innovation nation
As the UK prepares to harness the power of technology to address its most critical national challenges, Catapults are primed to support the journey towards the UK becoming a science superpower and an innovation nation.
2022 was a year marked by instability, with rising geopolitical tensions, cost of living pressures and the continuing legacy of COVID-19 all undermining economic confidence. Government’s response to improve the UK's resilience involved an unprecedented raise of public support for R&D announced at the Autumn Statement, and funding for the UK's Catapult technology and innovation centres of £1.6 billion over the next five years.
Building on developments from previous years, in 2022 Catapults continued to be active in all four nations of the UK, providing essential support for businesses to pioneer their innovations across healthcare, digitalisation, energy, space, and many other areas. Below we outline a few examples.
Health has never been more important, and as the world recovers from the global pandemic, the health-led Catapults have continued to develop novel therapies and medicines for degenerative diseases like cancer, dementia, cystic fibrosis and Chron’s disease.
Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult entered a partnership with UK Dementia Research Institute and centres of excellence to investigate new adeno-associated virus based gene therapies for degenerative diseases, looking to address unmet medical needs and accelerate the most promising therapies for dementia. Meanwhile, Medicines Discovery Catapult entered a pivotal partnership seeking to transform cystic fibrosis antimicrobial resistance research, jointly with LifeArc, a national medical research charity, and Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Energy Systems Catapult also entered the health space by trialling innovative approaches to support people with conditions, such as arthritis and pulmonary disease. They piloted the ‘Warm Home’ Prescription programme in Gloucestershire demonstrating that it is more cost-effective to help low-income patients with energy bills, and avoid costs in hospital admission and the associated financial strain on the NHS. Their original trial of 28 patients was successful and is now being expanded to 1,150 homes in Tees Valley England and Aberdeenshire Scotland.
Partnering for progress on Net Zero
Seven out of nine Catapults are supporting advances in missions of national importance such as net zero and climate change. The Hydrogen Innovation Initiative is one example of a collaborative effort involving Catapults and partner organisations to accelerate innovation, develop supply chain and overcome technology and integration challenges to establish an effective UK hydrogen economy. Catapults also continue to excel at their efforts to develop sources of clean energy through their work in offshore wind, marine, nuclear, systems and more recently, space solar energy.
Satellite Applications Catapult kick-started research and development into a future Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) system looking at a new sustainable, fully renewable energy technology from space. By harvesting solar energy in space and beaming it down to earth, this future technology provides a clean and continuous source of energy which has the potential to provide a substantial percentage of the UK’s energy needs in the future.
Supporting the routes to finance
Catapults have been active in providing routes to finance, bringing the investor community closer to the latest innovation.
Connected Places Catapult this past year led the initiative 3Ci (Cities Commission for Climate Investment) hosting a series of investor events convening city and business leaders in regional hubs such as Glasgow and Bristol, helping develop Net Zero plans and secure private sector funding for local projects. This is to be followed by Birmingham in the new year.
The Launch Academy, led by Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to accelerate technology and commercialisation into the offshore wind supply chain has supported 28 game-changing start-ups in their route to market. Since inception, the Launch Academy, which is currently sponsored by industry giants Ørsted, Equinor, bp and RWE, has helped startups to raise over £16m in investment.
Startups that participated in Digital Catapult’s acceleration programmes such as FutureScope and Machine Intelligence Garage raised £208 million of early stage funding in the past year alone and more than £577 million since 2017. These programmes are enabling leading tech innovators and businesses to advance digital technologies and adoption to become investment-ready.
Accelerating clusters of excellence and regional growth
Catapults are accelerating growth of existing clusters of innovation and industrial capability. A key example is Newport in South Wales, which is home to significant expertise in semiconductors. Recently, Siemens plc and Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult entered a strategic partnership to establish the Power Electronics Innovation Hub looking to accelerate the development of leading-edge capabilities and address a critical skills gap, both are vital to the future of key industries such as electric vehicles in the UK.
High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult entered a partnership with Innovation Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority with the goal of boosting industrial manufacturing productivity and job creation in and around the city. The programme has the potential to double the size of growth sectors and provide 15,000 additional jobs over the next decade.
Another key highlight took place in Scotland’s life sciences cluster which received a boost with the opening of the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Renfrewshire, aimed at enhancing the productivity and sustainability of local businesses. This is a unique collaboration of CPI (part of HVM Catapult) with AstraZeneca and GSK, University of Strathclyde, Scottish Enterprise and UK Research & Innovation, and many other partners. Over 100 jobs will be created at the facility initially, with many more expected to follow.
A year of progress
In 2022 Catapults joined forces committing to a Charter on equality, diversity and inclusion creating a vision for diverse and inclusive workplaces across innovation. They initiated developments to drive progress on the skills agenda through the Workforce Foresighting Hub and to promote knowledge exchange through initiatives such as the university-Catapult Innovation Launchpad Network+.
Following a year marked by turbulence, Catapults have stood strong in their mission to support UK innovation in emerging sectors, through leading expertise, cutting-edge assets, and market-shaping abilities, all needed to promote growth and global competitiveness of British businesses.
Reflecting on his year as Chair of the Catapult Network, and looking ahead to the future, Matthew Durdy, the CEO of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult said:
“2022 saw many important milestones for Catapults. We are proud of our collective achievements in driving innovation in key sectors and collaboration on strategic missions of national importance to the UK, such as net zero, digitalisation, and improving health.
“Our mandate for 2023 is to accelerate innovation, commercialisation and the adoption of new technologies across the UK economy. By supporting growth, investment and job creation through technological innovation, Catapults are a valuable tool in making the UK a science superpower and innovation nation.”
About the Catapult Network
The Catapult Network is made up of nine world-leading technology and innovation centres established by Innovate UK. It supports businesses in transforming great ideas into valuable products and services, delivering impact across the UK economy and enabling businesses to thrive in global markets. Since inception, the Catapults have collectively played a leading role in delivering over 18,000 industry collaborations, over 5500 academic collaborations and supported over 11,000 innovative SMEs across a wide range of sectors and extended international partnership projects.
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