Support Catapults to deliver UK's innovation ambition, says Lords Committee
5 February 2021
The Government's ambitions for research and development are not supported by a detailed plan or sufficient investment in innovation. Action is needed to bolster the network of innovation Catapults, and to improve collaboration by universities and industry.
- Report: Catapults: bridging the gap between research and industry (HTML)
- Report: Catapults: bridging the gap between research and industry (PDF)
- Inquiry: Catapults: bridging the gap between research and industry
- Science and Technology Committee
The Government needs to provide more detail about how it will deliver its ‘R&D Roadmap’, including how it will attract substantial private sector investment to meet its target of 2.4% of GDP by 2027. The UK’s research and innovation system has the necessary components to be successful, but there is insufficient collaboration between organisations and insufficient scale to deliver the required levels innovation and commercial success.
The Catapult Network is an integral part of the UK’s innovation system. The Government should expand the Catapult Network to support technologies in which the UK excels and that can bring substantial economic benefits - including to assist in the levelling up agenda. Changes are needed to remove barriers that limit the Catapults' effectiveness: universities, Catapults and industry need to be encouraged (and permitted) to interact more deeply; and rules governing innovation funding should be reformed, to allow greater flexibility for Catapults and their partners.
The Chair of the Committee, Lord Patel, said:
“The UK’s innovation system has all the necessary components to be successful, but it lacks the necessary scale and collaboration to fully realise economic benefits for the UK. The Catapult Network is an important national asset which has the potential to drive further innovation. The Catapults could have a much larger impact if their performance was not held back.
“To maximise the impact and potential of Catapults, collaboration should be strengthened with academics and industry. The government should broaden access to funds and prioritise scaling up the network Catapults. Without urgent action to attract more private investment, the government is unlikely to meets its R&D spending targets.”
The Committee sets out a range of recommendations for the Government, UK Research and Innovation, and Innovate UK to help deliver the UK's R&D ambitions, including changes to enable the Catapults to more effectively achieve their objectives:
- A clear plan for how public sector resources and private investment can be made to match the scale of ambition in the R&D Roadmap.
- Prioritisation of scaling up the Catapult Network.
- Assurance of long-term continuity for the Catapults—including longer-term certainty over funding and a commitment that reviews will be limited to once every five years, to match the five-year funding cycle.
- Enabling Catapults and universities to work together more easily on innovation projects, and fostering closer links between industry and universities to assist researchers to work at the interface between the two.
- Allowing Catapults to bid for Research Council funds where there are clear advantages in terms of both research and innovation; more flexibility in permitting public sector bodies to have a larger share of collaborative R&D funding; and supporting translational research and transformative innovation more effectively, including by reducing risks to industry.
- Supporting the levelling up agenda by developing a more strategic approach across policies for innovation and regional development—such as broadening access to the Strength in Places Fund.