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UK government announces £780M investment for ‘technologies of tomorrow’

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The UK government has announced it will be providing £780M in additional funding for high-tech hubs. The investment, part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, will be split between successful “catapult centres” (including high-tech labs, factories and training centers) in an effort to drive the development of new technologies and bolster British innovation.

Supporting innovation

The £780M in funding by the UK government was announced last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond on the same day it was announced that the UK GDP had grown by 0.4%.

“We are working hard to build a stronger, fairer economy—dealing with the deficit, helping people into work, and cutting taxes for individuals and businesses,” said Chancellor Hammond. “Unemployment is at its lowest since the 1970s, our national debt is starting to fall, and the economy has grown every year since 2010.

“It is by backing innovative British companies to grow and create jobs that we will continue this progress and build an economy fit for the future. Today’s £780M investment will support innovators across the country to create the technologies of the future, and the better, highly-paid jobs we urgently need.”

The funding will be scattered around the country and is focused on next-gen technologies and industries, including additive manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing, cell and gene therapy, offshore renewable energy, medical devices and more.

High Value Manufacturing

For advanced manufacturing, a significant portion of the new funding will go towards supporting programs encompassed in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a group which includes seven High Value Manufacturing Centres across the UK.

For instance, £126.7 million is allocated to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham and Sheffield and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, which are both part of the High Value Manufacturing Centre. In Bristol, £65.4 million is going to the National Composite Centre.

HVM Catapult

“We are a nation of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs,” commented Business Secretary Greg Clark. “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, backed by the largest investment in R&D in 40 years, we are boosting growth, creating new highly skilled jobs and helping change people’s lives for the better.

“This government wants to make the UK the most innovative nation in the world and the investment in our world leading catapult network will play a key role in building on UK strengths, bringing new ideas and products to market and helping drive local economies across the UK.”

One of the specific technologies which will seek to benefit from the increase in funding is the Hybrid Manufacturing Technology, which combines 3D printing with high speed computer controlled machining. The technology, which is nearing commercialization, could save the UK millions of pounds by offering a means to re-manufacture high value components which would otherwise be used for scrap.

Catapult Centres

The UK’s catapult network first launched in 2011 and consists of private entities which work in collaboration with Innovative UK, an initiative functioning under UK Research and Innovation and Industry. The catapult centres, which receive funding from public grants, R&D awards and commercial contracting, are aimed at breaking down barriers to innovation and to increase competition in the economy.

The catapults do this by strengthening the links between academia and industry; by maintaining open-access and state-of-the-art facilities that SMEs could not typically afford to invest in; and by helping to establish an ecosystem which promotes innovation. For the latter point, the catapult centres play a role in encouraging regulators to be “agile” in implementing legislation around new technologies and advancements.

“In their first five years the catapults have supported around 3,000 small businesses to develop and exploit new technologies,” said Dr. Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK. “They operate more than £850 million world-class facilities and are also training hundreds of apprentices and doctoral students, such as at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult where in the last year 900 apprentices have gained invaluable practical experience with cutting-edge technologies used in modern manufacturing.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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