A Year of Innovation: The Catapult Network's review of 2021
2021 demonstrated the power of what Catapults can achieve. Find out how we plan on going further in 2022.
From the very beginning, 2021 was a landmark year for the Catapults. After all nine CEOs gave evidence at the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, we were recognised as an integral part of the UK’s innovation system, particularly for our role in attracting private sector R&D investment and support towards the levelling up agenda.
Not long after and following a year of assessments, the Government released a Review of the Network, which further recognised Catapults as national assets grounded in regional ecosystems and driving business growth, with unique roles across access to finance, skills development and international engagement.
In a year which saw widespread efforts to cement the UK’s position as a science superpower, below are a selection of highlights showing how we pursued change in a range of different sectors by accelerating the adoption of new and innovative technologies.
With COVID-19 still on the agenda, we continued to scale up vaccines and develop testing laboratories. We spearheaded a number of new facilities in the North West and Scotland in cell and gene therapies, drug discovery and biotech, including the relaunch of radiochemistry at the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre in Manchester. This is all helping to deliver better therapies and medicines to treat patients faster.
Amid a growing focus on net zero, Catapults continued to help companies test, proof and scale offshore wind products and services. This included a £130 million investment in a state-of-the-art subsea cable Northumberland facility by JDR Cables, which will help create hundreds of UK jobs.
At home we commenced our work with the Department for Transport and industry as part of a £300 million partnership to test products lowering the footprint of heavy vehicles. Meanwhile, Catapults showcased the exciting future of air mobility, with a world-first demonstration featuring drones piloted remotely in the UK, US and Canada flying safely in shared airspace using an automated air traffic control system.
In an effort to push forward the fourth industrial revolution for UK manufacturing, Catapults advanced the development of digital twins to solve manufacturing problems through our involvement in the Made Smarter initiative. We also developed 5G testbed high-tech facilities to help companies test our products and services, and to boost network security and resilience. One such project is Sonic Labs, launched in partnership with DCMS and Ofcom, which won awards for our work in driving future connectivity in rural communities.
Jobs and skills
Catapults helped sectors advance workforce skills to shape the jobs for the future through a variety of world-leading apprenticeship programmes. This included a first of its kind focused on advanced cell and gene therapies, in addition to high value manufacturing programmes with the Department for Education. Two Catapults also received recognitions from the UK Great Place to WorkTM scheme by demonstrating high levels of trust, engagement and inclusion.
On the international stage, our CommonSensing project went to COP26 in Glasgow, with the Commonwealth Secretary General presenting how this important project looking at Climate Change mitigation and adaptation in Small Island Developing States can make a major impact on people’s lives. The Catapult’s UK-India Future Telecom Programme also got off to a flying start in October with the launch in India attended by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss MP and Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez MP. The programme features a £180,000 grant to explore opportunities for further UK-India collaboration on the needs of future telecoms networks.
More to come
With last year demonstrating how innovation has never been so vital, here are some trends where Catapults will be working to deliver greater impact in 2022 and beyond:
- An expansion of cell and gene activities towards Northern England and Scotland and a rise in advanced drugs and preventative therapies.
- Further decarbonisation of home heating and transportation, powering the UK's road to net zero.
- A 25% growth in the size of offshore wind turbines, leading to a 20MW turbine with the ability to power 25,000 homes.
- An increase in digital events experimentation in games, with new ways of making films and TV shows.
- More satellite launches than ever before with advances in constellation building.
- Bonus episodes of our Supercharging Innovation Podcast featuring guests from across business and government.
The Catapult Network is on a mission to transform the economy and society, so that people can live better, safer and healthier lives. We look forward to pushing this ambition forward in 2022.
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 lead role in delivering over 15,000 industry collaborations, over 4000 academic collaborations and supported over 9,000 innovative SMEs across a wide range of sectors and extended international partnership projects.
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