By Daniel Hunter

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said the UK’s new network of Catapult centres will help drive UK business growth by commercialising innovation.

Dr Vince Cable was at the London headquarters of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to discuss “What does success look like for innovation and technology centres?” and was joined by Will Hutton alongside senior representatives from major European innovation and technology centres, plus UK business and academic leaders looking to establish the new Catapult network.

The event has helped to shape the work of establishing the centres, by providing an opportunity for international exchange between technology and innovation centres on how they identify, measure and benchmark success and good performance.

Dr Cable said that the UK could transform its capacity for innovation by following the example of countries such as Germany, the USA, Taiwan and South Korea, which all have a network of these centres.

“Much of the inspiration behind what we’re doing has come from looking at this internationally, at international best practice and how best the UK can compete,” Dr Cable said. “We are an open country — open to foreign investment, open to foreign ideas, and I think that is one of the great strengths of this country.”

Dr Cable spoke of the importance of innovation to economic growth and living standards, arguing that “without innovation we would literally be living back in the Stone Age.”

“Economic evidence suggests two-thirds of the rise in labour productivity and living standards comes from innovation,” he said. “In the UK this is absolutely fundamental to our future.”

The Catapults were launched after looking at the key technologies that will be crucial to the UK for the next 20 years or so.

As well as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the centres focus on Cell Therapy, Satellite Applications, Offshore Renewable Energy, Connected Digital Economy, Transport Systems and Future Cities.

Phil Smith, the chair of the TSB, said he wanted the Catapult Centres to be recognised for excellence internationally, and that the UK needed to build partnerships with similar organisations abroad so it can access new technology developed overseas and help UK business to create partnerships with similar businesses abroad. “Catapult Centres have a very bright future,” he said.

“We at the IET are glad to help the UK catapult centres achieve success as they will make a vital connection between academic research and those working in the field,” said IET President Andy Hopper. “The aims of the catapult centres are aligned very much with the mission and the values of the IET.

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