The Hauser Review of the Catapult network is published today, we present a roundup of the key points you need to know.
1. Catapult centres fill an important gap in innovation support
Although the UK traditionally excels at scientific research, ideas are not always commercialised here. The Catapult centres are physical innovation centres that bring together business and academics to help develop new ideas and take them closer to market.
2. Catapult centres are good news for business
Innovation is risky for businesses, and it requires resources they do not always have. Catapult centres help businesses overcome these barriers associated with innovation by sharing the risk of innovative projects and providing companies with access to skills and expertise which may otherwise be beyond their reach.
3. Catapult centres need balanced funding
International best practice suggests funding should come one third each from long-term core public funding; business R&D contracts; and competitively-won funding for collaborative projects (this might come from schemes such as Innovate UK’s Collaborative R&D or Europe’s Horizon2020).
Funding from business helps ensure the centres are business-led and engage with business priorities, while funding from the public sector enables the centres to engage in riskier projects that are further from market. These are the projects businesses are unlikely to be able to engage in alone.
4. Catapult centres are benefiting from growing business demand
In 2013/14 the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult ha 1,515 private sector clients, generating a private sector income of £65mn in addition to £44mn of collaborative R&D.
5. Catapult centres need more core funding
Industry engagement is brilliant news – it shows the value and necessity of the centres – however, it reduces the impact of public funding and runs the risk that Catapult centres move their focus towards shorter-term opportunities if public funding does not grow to match this.
6. Catapult centres need long term funding
Catapult centres are an ambitions policy intervention, but without a long term commitment to funding, they will fail to live up to their promise. As the review states:
"Without a long term commitment from government to the balanced funding model Catapults risk becoming more focused on established markets where returns are more certain, rather than emerging opportunities which are riskier, but present large social and economic returns"
7. Catapult centres could do more to engage SMEs
While the Catapult centres are valuable, they have room to grow and develop. In particular, the Hauser review highlights the need to improve SME engagement. This is particularly important because – while innovation is challenging for companies of all sizes – the barriers to innovation are felt most acutely by SMEs.
Previous EEF research has shown that SME engagement is something of an issue for the centres; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that once companies do engage with the centres their experiences are positive. The review’s recommendation that Catapult centres should work to develop more effective SME engagement strategies is therefore sensible.
A longer term option may be to make a certain proportion of the centres' funding contingent on SME engagement.
8. Catapult centres need better KPIs
The review notes that we need to be able to monitor the success of the centres, arguing that the current range of indicators do not capture the full role of the centres and should be expanded. It says that the KPIs should incentivise impact and industry engagement.
9. Catapult centres do not operate in isolation
Although the Catapult centres fill an important gap, the review makes clear that the Catapult centres do not act in isolation; they are part of a network of support for innovation, and a breadth of support from Innovate UK is required to ensure innovative ideas make it through to market.
EEF are now looking for government to set out a long-term funding settlement for Innovate UK in the science and innovation white paper that enables it to maintain the breadth and scale of existing programmes, and grow the Catapult centres in line with the balanced funding model.