Innovate UK’s 4-year ‘Emerging Technologies and Industries’ strategy will help UK business and academia transform concept into reality in areas such as synthetic biology, energy harvesting and non-animal technologies.
These are all areas with significant potential to offer world-changing solutions in the decades ahead to challenges such as how to develop more effective drugs, how to monitor the condition of equipment in difficult to reach places, and how to improve the detection of security threats.
Innovate UK’s approach aims to see the UK, within a decade, poised to lead the world in one or more major new growth sectors of around £1bn turnover from an emerging technology area.
The strategy builds on investments already being made in seven emerging technologies, with a pipeline of future investments now anticipated. Some possible implications for global economies and societies include:
Two possible outcomes
· Better methods of producing hard-to-synthesise drugs, such as one of those used to tackle malaria.
· Ultra-specific sensors for food hygiene.
· Reducing the 2% (and rising) of global electricity generation currently consumed by cloud computing data centres.
· Smartphones with longer battery life and standalone, ultralow power sensors.
· Free power for electronic devices, for places where ‘changing the battery’ is impossible, impractical or dangerous.
· Power for autonomous sensors embedded within bridge and building concrete, detecting potential failure.
· New, fundamentally more predictive, methods to enable more effective drugs to be developed and tested in response to global needs.
· New ways of predicting, and hence avoiding, the possible side effects of new medicines.
Emerging imaging technologies
· New, ‘hyper-spectral’ cameras that can detect harmful objects and substances, such as explosives.
· Better diagnosis and treatment of dangerous medical conditions.
· Ultra-high performance capacitors to store more charge in a range of appliances.
· New ways of making strong, lightweight composites for a range of applications, such as automotive parts and sports goods.
· More secure data communication.
· Navigation without needing GPS in underground, underwater or adverse environments – such as building subterranean railways.
“Much of Innovate UK’s funding and expertise goes to support business innovation where the commercial opportunities are well understood and the technological challenges known – even if the solutions are not,” said Innovate UK Chief Executive Iain Gray.
“But it is vital that we also look further ahead, scanning the horizon for the breakthroughs of tomorrow. With our strong and inventive research base, the UK is an excellent source of high potential early-stage technologies. This new investment will help make the push for full commercialisation, creating real economic growth for the UK in the process.”
This strategy builds on extensive consultation with the research base and industry, as well as Innovate UK’s own intimate collaborations with a range of funding agencies such as Research Councils, and Government Research Establishments.
It represents a doubling of Innovate UK’s investment in early stage technologies. In all of the highlighted investment areas the UK has a world class research base and the industrial capacity to take the technologies to market.