UK Business Secretary announces a few more peanuts to be invested in tech sector

21 November 2012

The UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board will invest up to a further £6 million in new Launchpad competitions in the next six months to accelerate the development of existing clusters of innovative high growth SMEs around the UK.

This "builds on the success", it says, of just £1.25 million it invested in London’s media and technology hub Tech City in 2011, and which had an additional £1.5 million from the private sector. The competition attracted over 200 applications from SMEs to work in the digital space in Shoreditch, London, providing funding towards just 13 projects, which are now at various stages of completion.

How much impact such small sums will have across the economy is questionable, especially when some competitions require matching funds to win funding support, which means they are less likely to need them. There are probably thousands of SMEs looking for financial input to develop and expand who just don't qualify. Also, it would be useful to have a geographic breakdown of where government support goes as the impression from announcements is that the majority of funds cluster around London, when it is the rest of the UK that needs the most support to boost the non-service, non-banking sector.

Money is cheap, so why not borrow a few billion pounds to invest in the technology sector? Investment in the human genome project returned $140 to the US economy for every dollar invested, according to the Battelle Institute.

In a speech to business leaders about the Government’s Annual Innovation Report, Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The Launchpad initiative is an important driver of innovation. The three new competitions will focus on high-tech sectors where Britain already has the competitive advantage and a world class research base. The investment will help our most innovative SMEs develop new products and services and expand their businesses.”

The proposed Materials and Manufacturing Launchpad will focus on a cluster of companies around Daresbury and Runcorn Heath; the Space and Satellite Technology Launchpad will build on the growing cluster at Harwell, linking to related centres of excellence in the UK, and there will be a series of Launchpads in digital and creative clusters across different parts of the UK.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said: “This is part of an ongoing programme that will explore cluster support in different areas of the economy, where the UK has world class capabilities and vibrant developing sectors. Particular examples are in motorsports, offshore renewable energy and in healthcare, such as biosciences or digital health technologies.”

Launchpad competitions not only provide SMEs with base funding for research and development projects but support business growth through connections with mentors and expert advisors in the cluster as well as increasing access to the investor community.

In each Launchpad the Technology Strategy Board will be working with a cluster champion – a local partner organisation – to deliver a full package of support to the competition winners and to engage with the cluster as a whole.



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