Innovation news in brief: Science budget; China; smart cities; MedTech

The government said it will protect the science budget

Government commits to £26 billion five-year science budget

The government has announced a £26.3 billion budget for science for the next five years from April.

Science minister Jo Johnson confirmed the government will protect the science resource budget of £4.7 billion, as well as continuing to invest in scientific infrastructure, committing £5.8 billion capital between now and 2021.

The budget also includes the introduction of the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund, which will be used to invest in British science projects and businesses looking to tackle some of the planet’s life-threatening issues. The fund has already been used for a £1 million Rapid Response call for research grant applications to tackle the Zika virus.

Johnson said: “From the invention of the lightbulb to the creation of the world wide web, UK scientists have been instrumental in many of the world’s most significant discoveries, and we are determined to continue this legacy on a global scale.

“In a time of tight control over public spending, we have guaranteed record investment for UK scientists so they can help us tackle climate change, produce disease-resistant crops and cure rare diseases.”

The dual funding system which provides two streams of research funding -– grants awarded competitively, and a separate block grant for universities to invest according to their own priorities – will also be protected. These allocations see the balance shift in favour of university block grants – by 2020, 65p is due to be allocated directly for every £1 allocated to Research Councils, up from the current level of 63p.

It was also confirmed that funding for higher education will include £400 million to foster and strengthen university collaboration with the private sector through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund from 2018 until 2021.

The allocations include final funding figures for the next two years and indicative figures for 2018 to 2019 onwards. This comes as the government considers the implementation of Sir Paul Nurse’s recommendations to integrate the seven Research Councils under one Research UK umbrella.

A full breakdown of the allocations is avaiialble here

China banking on innovation to revive economy

China wants to shift its economy to a more innovative model, reports The Globe and Mail.

China wants more science centres, innovation hubs, big data operations and advanced factories.

Li Yining, one of the China’s most influential economists, cites Zhongguancun, the Beijing high-tech park where researchers and young college grads gather in coffee shops to discuss “ideas, creativity and innovation. They are the future of China,” Li said.

Life science ‘toolkit’ launched at Charnwood Campus

A new toolkit to help those involved in supporting the growth of UK life science sites has been launched by life sciences minister George Freeman.

The report Transforming UK Life Science Sites - A Toolkit for Action was produced by leaders in the sector, drawing on their own experience of growing and transitioning important UK sites.

The toolkit aims to provide a starting point for those facing major change at key life science sites and capture valuable knowledge and experience to share with others across the UK.

Speaking at the official launch of the report at the recently redeveloped Charnwood Campus, Freeman said: “The UK has one of the strongest, most dynamic and globally competitive life science industries in the world that generates annual turnover of over £50 billion, employs over 180,000 and ranks top in Europe in attracting foreign direct investment.

“However, the global business model is continually changing and presents ongoing challenges as personalised medicines, outsourcing and offshoring result in fewer large single business manufacturing and R&D sites.

“Working together, government and the sector can ensure the continued growth of the UK life sciences industry that plays such a vital role in contributing to prosperity and improved healthcare for all."

Read the Transforming UK Life Science Sites - A Toolkit for Action report here

Leading UK smart city businesses head East

British businesses with an expertise in connected cities are to visit Malaysia and Singapore to pitch their ideas to government, fellow businesses and investors as part of a mission organised by Innovate UK and UK Trade and Investment.

Ten companies will take part in the Connected Cities trade mission between 14 and 18 March:

  • Aralia Systems Ltd
  • Block Dox Ltd
  • Bronze Software Labs Ltd
  • The Carbon Trust
  • Demand Logic
  • Design for Social Change Ltd
  • Multipass UK Ltd
  • Ordnance Survey International
  • Preliminal Limited
  • Telensa Ltd

Their expertise ranges from smart street lighting to seamless ticketing, intelligent building management, mapping and security systems

All were selected for their innovative approach to making cities better places to live and work and for the commercial potential of their technologies.

Niraj Saraf, lead technologist for urban living at Innovate UK, said: "This trade mission will see 10 of the best UK companies showcasing their technologies in Singapore and Malaysia, two of the countries leading the way on connected cities.

“These companies’ innovations are key to addressing the challenges that large cities face. These challenges include growing populations, increased demand for energy and the integration of technology into citizens’ everyday lives.

“We believe these companies have huge growth potential and may become a vital part of the global connected cities industry in the near future.”

Find out more here

Green light for Harlow MedTech Innovation Centre

A multi-million pound deal has been struck for a major new Medical Technology (MedTech) Innovation Centre at Harlow Enterprise Zone.

The Centre, due to open autumn 2017, will further increase the presence of the life sciences sector in the region and help to build Harlow’s profile along the London-Stansted-Cambridge Corridor.

The £5m Anglia Ruskin project is supported by a £2.5 million grant from Essex County Council and has the backing of Harlow District Council.

It follows the recent announcement that Public Health England will be relocating its facilities to Harlow, with 2,500 jobs transferring to the town by 2024.

Anglia Ruskin University wants to establish two further medical technology science parks at Chelmsford and Southend. Together with Harlow, these campuses could create one of the world’s largest health innovation hubs, attracting international and national companies around the innovative medical technology sector.

Vinci has been appointed by Harlow District Council as its preferred development partner to build the new 25 acre Harlow Science Park which will incorporate the MedTech campus. Work on the site is expected to begin towards the end of 2016.