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Technology Strategy Board launches Catapult for the connected digital economy

The Technology Strategy Board announced, on Thursday, that it will establish a new catapult centre for the digital economy.

The new Catapult is a technology and innovation centre which will accelerate innovation and stimulate growth in this important area of the economy. It will bring together technological expertise to help the UK’s world-leading digital businesses to develop, test and apply new technologies, reducing the risk associated with creating hugely profitable products and services in the future. The centre may focus on areas such as:

* How digital media and content are distributed and used - in order to find sustainable ways to help businesses co-operate to create profitable value chains and services

* The pervasiveness of digital services - addressing the impact of new technologies and systems such as cloud computing and identity management, as businesses and industries become more digital and interconnected

* The blending of digital and physical worlds - looking at how objects such as cars, clothes, and consumer goods can become better connected, enhance our lives and create new business opportunities.

The Connected Digital Economy Catapult will also help businesses that traditionally are less active in the digital market place by transferring knowledge and experience from industries which are leading, such as the the creative sectors. This will help a broad spectrum of UK business take advantage of digital technology and quickly exploit profitable new business models.

Small and medium enterprises will also be able to collaborate with the wider digital value chain and showcase their products using state-of-the-art demonstrators that will be found at the Catapult.

The Connected Digital Economy Special Interest Group will be the main forum for engagement and discussions with businesses and academics and other stakeholders  interested in the establishment of this catapult.  The forum will also be used as one of the main communication channels and is well worth joining. 

Further Catapult centres (formerly know as Technology Innovation Centres or TIC's) are in the pipeline for the future, across a number of sectors. An Advanced Manufacturing Catapult currently operates at in seven UK locations and two other initiatives - Cell Therapy and Satellite Applications - will be set up later this year.

Announcing the Digital Catapault at AR firm, Holition, in Shoreditch, Vince Cable said:

“Long term investment in our economic strengths and being at the forefront of technological development are essential if we are to achieve sustainable and balanced growth. We have world leading, innovative businesses in the ICT, digital and creative sectors which have considerable potential for growth. For instance, a few years ago, there were just fifteen technology start-ups around Old Street and Shoreditch - now there are hundreds of high-tech companies in the area, including Holition where I am today. The Connected Digital Economy Catapult is a practical way in which Government can support industry to maintain its competitive advantage so that they can continue to be leading the way in making products and services that people want.” 

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said:

“We are extremely pleased to be supporting such an important technology area with a Catapult centre. With many, if not all, industries searching for ways to utilise digital technology, the opportunity for the Catapult will be enormous. It will also be applicable to all internet-using businesses and industries as they attempt to innovate with digital technology to provide consumers and businesses with new products and services.”

The TSB will now begin the competition to run the centre, considering expressions of interest, written proposals and a process of legal checks before a final decision is made by the Board.



12 people have had something to say so far

Just give us the return on investment of taxpayers money over the last 5 years, and what we can expect over the next 5 years, preferably without the smoke and mirrors.We can get a return of 7% by lending to Greece.

We start with our universities, lots of top class research, but rarely successfully commercialised, at least not in the UK. So we have a Technology Strategy Board to address this, then a Knowledge Transfer Network to encourage "industry" to take up some of these world class ideas, then we have the _connect groups to make these people talk to each other.

Next we need a specialised Technology Innovation Centres to er.. to find some innovative technology which will enable us "to continue to be leading the way in making products and services that people want.”
Posted on 26/01/12 23:33.
A lot of cash flowing around in fact. Just at random I've checked the excel list of payouts greater than £25,000. Less than £25,000 is not reported. The latest is for November 2011...

TSB paid out £21,468,146
£2million to Rolls Royce, most of the big cash went to big companies, Nissan, Caterpillar, BAE systems, Jaguar cars, GKN, Airbus operations.
Most of the small start-ups were larger firms for example, Cyclofluidic, is UCB brussels & Pfizer USA
Lots of Universities getting large sums for anonymous projects.
Centre for Process Innovation looks interesting..."Innovation to Commercialisation"
Sales £0.8 million, grants £10.9 million, total handouts in November £684,713 & the usual array of directors with a string of other directorships, honours etc.
ICT KTN got £232,044 anyone know where it went?
Posted on 29/01/12 23:50.
I couldn't agree more Tony - this and yours below. Let's be blunt, we don't need a whole lot of "Catapults" and "Technolgy Innovation Centres" (which very much sound like they're designed to justify a politician's existence) to build technology businesses - a lot of us have been doing that for twenty or thirty years and have innvation in our very bones.

What we need - what small business has always needed, down the centuries - is ready access to modest amounts of RISK finance - which does not mean bank loans. It might be grants, or government equity stakes, or redeemable preference shares, or appropriately motivated risk funds from private-sector sources - we don't really care, entrepreneurs will do any sensible deal on funding to get their idea moved forward. If the TSB / government would only take the bold step of actually investing directly into business - small stakes with a ready mechanism for selling those stakes later, is not at all difficult to arrange - then vast numbers of small enterprises could get on and create products, work, and export revenues.

I am small technology design business (30+ years in the electronics industry) : I have less than 5 employees, I am an exporter, and I have never had one shilling of help from the UK govermnent. I have a new product in design now, purely being developed using my own very modest savings, and it will be exportable.

Would the TDB or Govt assist me in financing that development ? not a chance. They will point me at the NLGS - the "retread" of the SFLGS (small firms loan guarantee scheme) we've had for decades - except the gov't now idiotically allow the banks take director's PGs when previously they were expressly banned from doing so, and so now the banks can (and will) make you homeless, if you have one failed project. Great. VINCE CABLE: are you listening ? Would you like to invite me to one of your sessions and listen to what small business funding is really all about ?

Apologies for quick rant - despite that am very optimistic, best wishes to all with your projects, I'm sure we'll have a manufacturing boom rolling by 2015, one way or another... :-)
Posted on 30/01/12 10:19 in reply to Tony Smee.
Very interesting article except it tells me nothing actually useful about the "Catapult" - where is it, what's the address and telephone number so I can go look at it ?
Posted on 30/01/12 10:23.
Most of this is still TBA. There will be a competition to run the centre, legal checks and, no doubt, admin to take care of before an announcement on the actual opening can be made. Watch this space for further updates.
Posted on 30/01/12 11:50 in reply to Mike Holt.
Isn't it a bit premature to announce it then if it doesn't exist yet ? I've just been researching TICs (now renamed 'Catapults') for anyone interested the root parliamentary document is here :
And there is some info on the ones that exist here:
I'm still reading that PDF, and the definition of what these centres are for, seems rather wooly even in the original submission. The Government defines it as
• conducting in house R&D [research and development];
• providing access to skills and equipment which might not otherwise be within their
• helping to scale up manufacturing processes and producing technology demonstrators;
• helping to develop value and supply chains;
• informing businesses about the potential of new technologies; and
• helping early-stage SMEs [small and medium enterprises].
So - contract R&D - which few of us can afford - three categories of "help" and some information.
For another description, this is Iain Gray's definition for parliament of what TICs (catapults) do - also from the parliamentary document:
• provide businesses with access to world-leading technology and expertise;
• "reach into" the knowledge base for world-leading science and engineering;
• be able to undertake collaborative applied research projects with business;
• be able to undertake contract research for business;
Presumably the last two are fee-earning; quite what the first two mean is unclear.
Six to eight of these centres are being built with, note, £200,000,000 of our money: about £30M per centre. The budget overall would be enough to sponsor four thousand £50K startups, if it were spend on those instead.
If I'm reading this right, these centres will be essentially contract R&D outfits - presumably therefore employers, with expensive development teams and capital equipment provision. That surely will mean they have to charge commercial rates for the contract R&D they offer: so that will be no more accessible to the cash-strapped small business community than any of the plethora of existing commercial contract R&D firms (of which there is no shortage at all).
So why are we doing this ? This would seem to amount to using £200million of taxpayers money, to set up... a commercial business posing as a 'resource'.
Can I please invite Mr Iain Gray to comment please and perhaps give us a much more detailed and clearer explanation of what is intended. Perhaps I am wrong, and the contract R&D is at hugely discounted rates to us ? If so, how is abuse of that discount to be prevented (e.g. by large firms monopolising it) ?
Posted on 30/01/12 15:28 in reply to Adriana Hamacher.
Hi Mike,
I'm an electronic engineer and sympathise with your predicament in your electronics business. It must be very frustrating to see billions wasted by these people who are so out of their depth as far as innovation, manufacturing & engineering is concerned, some of the reports are just a joke.

TICs or catapults, it's simply another way of distributing the taxpayers money around the old boys network.

The results speak for themselves, not a single really impressive innovation in five years of passing the cash around. And Nesta hasn't made a penny in over 10 years. There are some brilliant ideas out there but no way of testing them, no way to even prove the concept.
If a new Facebook, Amazon, You Tube, Google, a new penicillin, a cure for cancer, a new electronic breakthrough, whatever, where would the people turn? To a TSB competition for 60% funding? It's all blocked, open only to the rich and priviliged, hence all the big payouts to Rolls Royce, Qinetik, BAE systems, Nissan & Caterpillar.
I disagree with your 2015 prediction, if nothing changes then they will achieve the same results in the next 5 years as they have in the last 5 years, none.
Posted on 31/01/12 00:46.
Hi Tony
Thanks for your reply. Well it will be interesting to see if Iain Gray comes over to this thread to comment. I've sent him a request through the comment section of another posting of his - only way to reach him for the mo, one of the odd things about this 'network' is we don't seem free to communicate with other members (other than as you & I are doing through here).
I looked up Iain's profile and clicked on 'contact', but all it offers in response is 'pending'. I don't quite know why paid TSB personnel - who should be accountable - don't have their email contacts posted openly so we can reach them. There is something odd about this whole network - there doesn't seem to be anyone in charge, or even any central support / queries / information team - it has a 'Marie Celeste' feel about it :-)
IAIN - if you're there, please speak to us and provide an email address. We are waiting. If you don't reply, we will be forced to conclude you are either a figment of our imaginations, or don't care what we members - and also taxpayer-funders of this organisation - think.
Mike Holt
Posted on 31/01/12 22:47 in reply to Tony Smee.
Hi Mike,
Yes there are a few ghost groups, no one there, no articles for months, & no comments.
It is a strange situation, the whole site is anonymous and difficult to use, the articles are often praising foreign achievements, or full of one sided hype, and there's no direct input from anyone at the top, no feedback or monitoring of results. Everything has potential or is planned to take off soon, meetings, conferences & workshops, jollies to faraway places, lots of money going in, but not much coming out to small firms.
You won't get an answer from Iain Gray or any of the others, they are too busy lining up appointments for later and lining their pockets while they are in power. Out in five years with a string of a dozen directorships, advisors to the board etc, on £100,000 a year for half a dozen meetings a year.
I'm not sure if they realise how serious a situation it is, if the services industry folds, then 70% of the economy goes.
Posted on 01/02/12 00:23 in reply to Mike Holt.
Mike and Tony,
Thanks for your comments. While I'm not responsible for defending the whole network and policy of the site, I would like to point out a few things, particularly about the ICT KTN group. There are plenty of competitions designed for SME's. We regularly publish the results as well as findings from the various events we put on.
In respect of the articles which I've written, I occasionally write about overseas companies or developments in order to give a perspective of a particular area. Also, I will often explore the latest developments in a field in order bring an event to members attention. Generally, my articles seem to get a very good response.
I am always open to ideas for new themes: perhaps you know of a small company which is doing particularly vital work which deserves recognition. Tony mentions the service industry, are there particular insights about ICT services which we would benefit from hearing about?
Suggestions from yourselves, or other community members, are invited.
Posted on 01/02/12 08:52 in reply to Tony Smee.
Hi Mike, No answer from Iain Gray, you know some quango boards only meet 6 times a year. I've introduced mysel on his blog, so we'll see how it goes.
Posted on 14/02/12 01:35.
Hello Adriana

I think you should run for election to replace Iain Gray in his job :-) At least you take the trouble to speak to us out here, and it was you who were kind enought to respond to me when I was 'knocking on an unopened door' and could get no answer from anyone in TSB about a year ago.

I know you are right about the various grant competitions, and I will aim to enter some, if only to see if anything happens.

I see that Iain and the TSB generally have begun to get a gentle kicking in the pages of good old PRIVATE EYE this week, where one member has gone as far as using Freedom of Information Requests to find out what's going on, and reports that it is mostly Big and Massive Business, not SMEs, who have got grants from TSB - struggling little enterprises like The Ford Motor Company.

Now it's never a good idea for any organisation to get itself talked-about in the Eye....

IAIN : ARE YOU THERE ? SPEAK TO US PLEASE. Tony, Adriana and I are beginning to think we are the only members.

Can you furnish up to date stats please on funding awarded, broken down by enterprise size.

best regards both (there being seemingly only us three members in toto... :-)
Mike Holt
Posted on 29/02/12 02:43 in reply to Adriana Hamacher.

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