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January 25, 2013

UK provides 1 billion dollars for Big Data, Space, Robotics and five other technologies

Eight great technologies which will propel the UK to future growth have received a £600 million funding boost.

There will be:

£189 million for big data
£25 million for space
£35 million for robotics and autonomous systems
£88 million for synthetic biology
£20 million for regenerative medicine
£30 million for agri-science campuses
£73 million for advanced materials
£30 million for energy

We have also committed a further:

£35 million for research campuses
£25 million for the advanced metrology lab
£50 million for transformative equipment and infrastructure

We are also considering a strategic opportunity to partner with the US Department of Energy in the development of small modular reactor technology.

The eight technology programs are:

1. Big data

The UK government invested an extra £150 million in e-Infrastructure in October 2011. This has been followed by a further allocation of an extra £189 million in the Autumn Statement. This will be invested over the next two years in key areas such as: bioinformatics and environmental monitoring.

Our investment in data has also ensured we maintain our leadership in social science. We have invested £23.5 million in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)–led life study, the most ambitious birth cohort study yet, which will track 100,000 children from birth. The reason it is so ambitious is that it will also link genetic data, environmental data and educational outcome data.

2. Space

The UK Government will be investing an extra £25 million in the further implementation of the technology vision through Phase-2 of the National Space Technology Programme. This £25 million of further investment will meet unmet demand as many excellent projects were not supported in the first phase.



3. Robotics and autonomous systems

An investment of an extra £35 million for centres of excellence in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. They will be created in and around universities, innovation centres, science parks and enterprise sites and provide bespoke support for both university and industrial interests.

4. Synthetic biology

We are making a series of investments in research in synthetic biology. The UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board are spending over £90 million on world leading synthetic biology research and commercialisation including £20m announced by the Chancellor last November. We announced as part of our Life science strategy one year on that a further £50 million will be invested in synthetic biology as part of the subsequent Autumn Statement settlement.

We also announced that we are investing £38 million in a National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre. This investment will allow the development of a large scale facility for the manufacture of biologically produced medicines such as antibodies and vaccines.

5. Regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine involves restoring function by replacing or restoring human cells, tissues or organs. There are three main approaches researchers are pursuing – transplantation of cells, tissues and organs, stimulation of the body’s own self-repair mechanisms; and the development of biomaterials for structural repairs. This is led by world class research in centres such as Edinburgh (where Dolly the sheep was cloned), Cambridge, Leeds, and London. Our research has moved on from Dolly the sheep to Jasper the dog. He had spinal injuries but was able to walk again by injecting his spinal cords with a specific type of stem cell. The potential applications for human medicine are easy to envisage.

The Research Councils and TSB recently published ‘A strategy for UK regenerative medicine’, including commitments of £25 million for the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform, (which is establishing multidisciplinary programmes to address the key roadblocks in developing therapies in this area) and £75m for translational research. Our Cell Therapy Catapult has now opened at Guy’s Hospital in London. An extra £20 million capital was allocated to the Regenerative Medicine Platform at Autumn Statement 2012 to provide imaging and cell manufacture technologies and a clean room.

6. Agri-science

Britain did not just lead the Industrial Revolution, we pioneered the Agricultural Revolution too. From leading that Agricultural Revolution in the late eighteenth century to new biotechnology-led advances, the UK has remained at the forefront of agricultural research.

Chickens are a prime example. Chickens are the world’s biggest source of meat, and are particularly important in Asia. We breed the world’s chickens - of the £85 billion global poultry market, 80 per cent of breeding chickens come from genetic stock developed in the UK. Thanks to our genetics research you get twice as much chicken for a given amount of chicken feed as 20 years ago. Each year we launch a new breed of chicken which will produce many generations over a year or more before a new improved version comes along. This is possible because of close links between the Roslin Institute, with its world leading R&D, and our commercial sector.

BIS and DEFRA are working together with industry to strengthen links between research spend and agricultural policy. This work will be brought together in a new agri-tech strategy over the next few months. We are already investing £250 million in the transformation of the Pirbright Insititute of Animal Health as well as Babraham and Norwich research park. The Autumn Statement package earmarked £30m for capital investment in BBSRC’s world-leading agri-science campuses. A candidate for this funding is the construction of a new National Plant Phenomics Centre at Aberystwyth University.

7. Advanced materials

Advanced materials are a key tool for advanced manufacturing. UK businesses that produce and process materials have a turnover of around £170 billion per annum, represent 15 per cent of the country’s GDP and have exports valued at £50 billion. There has been quite rightly a flurry of interest in 3D printing, or ‘additive layer manufacturing’. This new technology is possible not just because of advances in IT but also because of advances in the materials that go into the process. It is no longer just a matter of printing out designer dolls: Southampton University has used advanced materials to show how we could print out a new aeroplane.

The Prime Minister convened a seminar last summer on advanced materials which showed the importance of advanced materials for advanced manufacturing. As a result I can announce an extra £45 million in advanced materials research, for new facilities and equipment in areas of UK strength such as advanced composites; high-performance alloys; low-energy electronics and telecommunications; materials for energy; and nano-materials for health.

In addition, we announced at the Autumn Statement a £28 million Expansion of the National Composites Centre (NCC), located on the Bristol and Bath Science Park. The NCC is one of the seven centres within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. This investment will expand the NCC from 6,500 sq m in a single building to 11,500 sq m across two buildings, and give it the space to install equipment to work on larger structures made of composite materials.

It will also enable the NCC to increase the level of skills development it undertakes, by creating a new training centre for higher level and vocational skills development, training the next generation of engineers in manufacturing and materials technologies.

8. Energy

Efficient energy storage technologies could allow the UK to capitalise on its considerable excess energy production. While UK consumption peaks at 60GW, the UK has generation capacity of 80GW but storage capacity of only 3GW (primarily from the single Dinorwig water system in Wales). Greater energy storage capacity can save money and reduce the national carbon footprint at the same time.

It has the potential for delivering massive benefits – in terms of savings on UK energy spend, environmental benefits, economic growth and in enabling UK business to exploit these technologies internationally. Energy is one of the largest single themes in Research Council funded research, with a portfolio of over £600 million of total current awards. In addition the government will invest an extra £30 million to create dedicated R&D facilities to develop and test new grid scale storage technologies.

We are also considering a strategic opportunity to partner with the US Department of Energy in the development of small modular reactor technology.

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