Wider remit urged for Catapult network

Hermann Hauser’s report suggests technology hubs could offer advice on innovation policy and calls for metrics to measure centres’ impact

November 6, 2014

Catapult centres should expand their role to include influencing innovation policy in the future, according to a report.

The network of technology centres, which bring together academics and industry to produce new products, should “take advantage” of their position to flag up and address the barriers in commercialising research, according to the report by Hermann Hauser, the entrepreneur.

The report, which looks into the progress that the centres have made in their first four years, also calls for new innovation metrics to be developed to measure Catapults’ impact.

In 2010 Dr Hauser proposed that the UK set up technology and innovation centres loosely based on Germany’s Fraunhofer applied research institutes. Seven Catapult centres have been established by Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, in areas such as cell therapy and transport systems. A further two centres are due to open next year.

Earlier this year Vince Cable, the business secretary, and David Willetts, the science and universities minister at the time, asked Dr Hauser how best to build on the initial progress of the Catapults with a view to feeding his thoughts into the Treasury’s Autumn Statement.

The report, published on 5 November, calls for new “sophisticated” metrics that can measure the impact of each Catapult because traditional indicators such as turnover, volume of research and development or intellectual property registrations fall short. New metrics could look at the quality of a Catapult’s relationship with universities, for example.

Further down the line, Catapults could offer advice on innovation policy. But Dr Hauser warned that any expansion to their remit should be cautious initially, with the focus in the short term remaining on their core technology mission.

The review also calls for the budget of Innovate UK to double to about £1 billion per year by 2020 so that it has more money available to fund Catapult centres. The network should grow by no more than one or two each year with 30 established by 2030 at an annual cost of £400 million, according to the report.


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