The Technology Strategy Board has a record £440 million to spend this year to support innovative businesses around the country.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has been given a budget of £440 million this year to spend on supporting innovators around the UK.

David Willetts, universities and science minister, is due to announce the funding boost today, which represents a £50 million increase on last year’s allocation.

Renewable energy, advanced materials, satellites, healthcare and digital technology were all among the areas which stand to gain from the increased investment, all of which are highly specialised industries in which many professionals choose to work as contractors or freelance workers.

In the Delivery Plan also launched today, TSB sets out plans to develop its Catapults - centres intended to speed up the commercialisation of new developments in specific sectors. By the end of this year, the board plans to make all seven operational and build them up by investing in new facilities and commissioning more projects.

After the Smart scheme had its funding doubled in response to heavy demand last year, this enlarged budget will be at least maintained in the coming year. The scheme seeks to overcome the problems faced by many smaller businesses trying to access early stage funding for initial product development.

The strategy also sets out plans to expand the role of Innovation Vouchers to allow businesses better access to sources of external advice and expertise on both running their companies and developing their ideas.

TSB was launched to stimulate innovation among British businesses by investing in businesses looking to develop new technologies. Much of its work has focused on smaller enterprises so far - it gave 60 per cent of its funding away to small and medium-sized businesses in the last financial year, with over £90 million devoted to research and development among small businesses over the past two years through the Smart programme.

But the Delivery Plan also looks further afield to help British innovators get their products to market - TSB will be running three trade missions alongside UK Trade and Investment to help smaller firms develop their contacts overseas. The board is already developing partnerships with the EU and with economies such as Brazil, India and China to develop relationships which could mutually benefit firms in every country. This could provide valuable opportunities for collaboration, as well as new networks through which businesses can see their products commercialised around the world. In turn, this could open up new opportunities for contractors as projects take them further afield.

TSB will also be funding as many as 75 competitions for research and development across specific themes, in partnership with private sector firms and partners from across industry and the public sector. As much as £300 million will be directed towards funding these competitions to encourage world-class innovation.

“The UK has some of the most innovative business in the world,” said Mr Willetts. “The £440 million budget means that there will be more funding available than ever before for businesses across the country to bid for and help turn their ideas into reality – bridging the so called ‘valley of death’.”

By Victoria McDonnell

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