‘To maximise the impact and potential of Catapults, collaboration should be strengthened with academics and industry.’
The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has said that the UK’s innovation system has all the necessary components to be successful, ‘but lacks the necessary scale and collaboration to fully realise economic benefits for the UK.’ The comment made by Lord Patel, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, came as it released the findings of an inquiry: Catapults: Bridging the gap between research and industry examining the contribution of the so called Catapults to deliver the UK’s Research and Development Roadmap.
The UK’s innovation ‘Catapults’ are independent, not-for-profit technology and innovation centres. They are intended to foster collaboration between research organisations in the public and private sector, in order to assist in turning innovative ideas into commercial products. The first Catapults were established during 2011 by the Technology Strategy Board. There are nine Catapults operating in various sectors, they form the ‘Catapult Network’ and are overseen by Innovate UK.
Having launched a short inquiry during November 2020, and received written and oral evidence from the Catapults during December 2020 and January 2021, the Science and Technology Committee said that; ‘The Government needs to provide more detail about how it will deliver its R&D Roadmap, including how it will attract substantial private sector investment to meet its target of 2.4% of GDP by 2027.’ The Committee added that there is ‘insufficient collaboration between organisations and insufficient scale to deliver the required levels [of] innovation and commercial success.’
Lord Patel added; ‘The Catapults would have a much larger impact if their performance was not held back. To maximise the impact and potential of Catapults, collaboration should be strengthened with academics and industry.’
The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been carrying out a review to examine how the UK’s Catapult centres can strengthen research and development capacity in local areas, improving productivity and contributing to greater prosperity across the UK. The review is due to report during early 2021.