£60 million boost for science innovation

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photograph of Vince Cable taken at the NPL Laboratory

Business Secretary Vince Cable today announced a £60 million investment in UK universities to help our most pioneering scientists and engineers create successful businesses from their research, improve industrial collaboration and foster greater entrepreneurship.

The announcement was made, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, at a visit to the London studios of university spin-out company Space Syntax, an Small Medium Enterprise (SME) which uses advanced urban modelling techniques to design better cities and public spaces such as the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square in London and the replanning of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The funding comes from the EPSRC, the UK’s main funding agency for scientific research. They will award Impact Acceleration Accounts ranging from £600,000 to £6 million to 31 universities across the UK.

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It will help support universities’ best scientists and engineers to deliver greater collaboration with industry, bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace and help them become better entrepreneurs.

The Business Secretary said:The UK’s scientists are some of the most innovative and creative people in the world, but they need support to take their best ideas through to market. This could be by establishing a successful, technology-driven SME like Space Syntax which I visited today.

This investment I’m announcing today will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, generating commercial success to fuel growth.

The funding will support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition – the 'valley of death' between a research idea and developing it to a stage where a company or venture capitalist might be interested. It will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment: improving their knowledge and skills and returning to the lab with a better understanding of the way companies operate and the challenges they face.

EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy said: The research we support is recognised as outstanding on the international stage. These awards aim to make a step change in the impact that has on society- generating new business opportunities which drive economic growth, creating better, more informed, public policy.

They will help companies to engage with research projects at an earlier stage and benefit from research breakthroughs and the fundamental knowledge they generate. The funding will be used to support partnerships with SMEs and larger companies and take some of the risk out of their investment.

Some of the university impact acceleration projects will include:

Entrepreneurs in Residence

Queen’s University Belfast- visiting entrepreneurs can come from diverse fields and will have already successfully delivered societal or economic impact from a research-related knowledge / skills base. Teaming up experienced entrepreneurs with research teams early will allow researchers to accelerate the time between the discovery of knowledge and identifying a market opportunity.

Supporting London’s Tech City

Tech City is the growing technology hub based around Shoreditch in East London, consisting of over 3,200 firms and its on-going development is a national public policy objective. University College London (UCL) will use its Account to develop a unique service helping innovative digital London SMEs to test their new products and services, gain customer feedback and ensure its technical feasibility, by offering access to UCL as the world’s largest 'living-lab' for digital and media content.

Public Policy Hub

Engagement between university research and public policy remains a significant challenge for both academics and policymakers, despite the importance of ensuring that the development of public policy is informed by robust evidence. UCL are creating a public policy hub to enhance the impact of research on public policy. It will include a Centre for Engineering Policy, Transport Policy and Practice Initiative, and a Green Economy Policy Commission.

Impact Secondments

Through its Impact Secondments, the University of Southampton will directly support SMEs like Covesion, an innovative photonics manufacturing company, based in Hampshire, which successfully spun out of research from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre. The Southampton Impact Secondment will provide Covesion with access to facilities and intellectual expertise brought directly into the company to quickly bring it’s ground-breaking laser crystal technology to new global markets

Notes for editors

EPSRC Impact Acceleration Accounts

  • EPSRC has awarded a total of £60 million to 31 universities in the UK including five in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland, two in Wales.
  • The awards range in size from £600,000 to just under £6 million
  • A full list and regional summaries are available - please call EPSRC press office.

Global Entrepreneurship Week

12-18 November is Global Entrepreneurship Week. 115 countries are taking part this year and there are over 3,000 registered events across the UK, making this the biggest ever celebration of enterprise in the country.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The EPSRC is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture.

Space Syntax

Space Syntax is a spin-out company which resulted from research funded by EPSRC at UCL. It employs around 20 people and provides strategic, evidence-based consulting services in economics, planning, design, transport and property development. Combining extensive global experience with robust and sophisticated technologies, they forecast the effects of planning and design decisions on the movement and interaction of people in buildings and urban areas. They work to de-risk property investment decisions, showing how the layout of places can be optimised to enhance the social, economic and environmental value of developments. Using a highly graphic, data-rich and audience-engaging set of techniques, we help our clients achieve powerful results quickly.