Catapulting innovation

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Simon Edmonds, Director of the Catapults Programme at the Technology Strategy Board, updates EEF members on the fast-progress across the seven Catapults, and sets out how UK manufacturers can benefit from their world-class facilities and services.

Innovation happens when people do things differently, but this often comes with inherent risks and costs which can be barriers to making things happen. In order to prove that new ideas will be successful, a business may need extra help – and this is where a Catapult comes in.

To give you an update on the fast-progress across our seven Catapults, and set out how UK manufacturers can benefit from world-class facilities and services, I’ve answered EEF members’ questions below.

What's the progress so far?

There are seven centres open for business and making rapid progress: High Value Manufacturing (combing seven world-class centres of industrial innovation); Offshore Renewable Energy; Cell Therapy; Satellite Applications; Transport Systems; Future Cities and Connected Digital Economy. Two more Catapults (Energy Systems and Precision Medicine) will open in 2015.

The Catapults have attracted impressive leadership teams, drawn primarily from industry, working in partnership with leading academic figures. All are up and running, working on projects with businesses large and small. The High Value Manufacturing Catapult is the most established and over the past 12 months has driven 857 projects across its 7 industrial innovation centres - establishing an order book of £218m of innovation work, over half of which is collaborative R&D.

Why are Catapults needed?

Hundreds of thousands of UK businesses are hungry for growth and capable of bringing brilliant new products and services to market, but few have all the required resources, expertise, equipment or contacts.

The Catapults bridge the gap between these ambitious businesses and the expertise of the UK’s world-class research communities. They do this by reducing the risk of innovation and accelerating the pace of business development.

How can manufacturers benefit?

There are many benefits of working with one of our Catapult centres, whether a business is large or small. EEF members will clearly be interested in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, but there are also strong links to the manufacturing base with other Catapults, such as Offshore Renewable Energy, Transport Systems, Cell Therapy and the forthcoming Energy Systems Catapult.

Catapults offer development and research capability and access to a skilled technical resource and cutting-edge specialist equipment. A good example is the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) in Strathclyde, part of the HVM Catapult, which has just acquired three major new pieces of machinery, including the most powerful superplastic forming press of any research establishment in Europe.

Businesses of all sizes also value the ability to collaborate and network through the Catapults – knowing that their intellectual property will be carefully managed. The encouragement of networking/collaboration is being embedded in all the Catapults as they develop world-class centre facilities - such as the Cell Therapy’s state-of-the-art laboratories at Guy’s Hospital, London, opened in June this year.


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