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Ed Vaizey MP: Integrating new and exciting innovations into the world of business has huge economic benefits

3 min read

Ed Vaizey MP writes about the impact of the UK Catapult Network of 10 different centres collaborating with businesses, scientists and engineers to capitalise on market opportunities, including the Satellite Applications Catapult in his own Wantage constituency.

The UK has a proud history as a trailblazer in the world of research and innovation and continues to lead the way today. Out of the G7 countries, we have the most productive science base and top the lists of many global rankings of research quality. We are home to some of the world’s very best universities – three of the global top 10 and 12 of the top 100, in fact – which form part of a thriving UK research community with truly global influence and reach.

When considering research and development, it is important to think of the wider impact of scientific advances and technological breakthroughs. Integrating new and exciting innovations into the world of business has huge economic benefits.

The work of Catapult centres is therefore vital in facilitating conversation and collaboration between businesses, scientists and engineers to capitalise on market opportunities. Established by Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – the centres allow leaders in these fields to work side-by-side on business-led innovation. There are 10 physical centres dotted around the country, each specialising in a particular area of research and development. These provide unparalleled access to expert technical knowhow, equipment and a host of other resources.

One such centre, the Satellite Applications Catapult, is based within my constituency of Wantage and is the foremost national institution for fostering economic growth through space technologies. The UK currently commands a 7% share of the global space market, and has ambitions to increase this to 10% by 2030. Such growth would more than quadruple the UK space-related economy, making it worth approximately £40bn per year and creating 100,000 new high-tech jobs across the country.

Established in May 2013, over the last four years the centre has carried out over 140 collaborative and commercial projects, engaging research teams with 17 businesses that have gone on to raise over £24.2m of equity capital. Further, it has opened five regional centres of excellence across the UK and increased the amount of funding available for space-related companies. Most pertinently, for every £1 of core grant invested, the Catapult has enabled £6 of investment and linked activity.

On a local level, the Catapult has had a huge impact on creating high-tech jobs in the area and attracting the very best researchers and engineers to Oxfordshire. The rapidly growing Harwell Campus – of which the Catapult is a key member – houses over £1bn of world-leading research infrastructure and is home to around 200 science and research organisations.  In turn, over 5000 of the UK’s most innovative minds work collaboratively here as part of this vibrant, scientific community.

Moving forward, it is vital that we are both able build upon our world-leading research and development and ensure the brightest scientific minds are attracted to working in the UK. I am therefore encouraged that the government has recognised this need by prioritising investment in science, research and innovation as one of ten key pillars of its future industrial strategy. This includes an additional £4.7bn of funding by 2020-21 – the greatest increase in any Parliament in 40 years.

I also welcome the positive impact that the newly-created UK Research and Innovation agency (UKRI) will have when launched in April next year. Replacing the nine separate organisations currently serving different strands of UK research, this new body will create an authoritative voice for the scientific industry both nationally and globally.

Ed Vaizey is Conservative MP for Wantage and Didcot

This article also appears in the Conservative conference edition of the House Magazine. Ed Vaizey MP has responded to an article from the Catapult Network which can be found here.

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