By Daniel Hunter

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 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) around the UK.

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

In a speech to business leaders today (Wednesday) 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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