Britain must focus on science, technology and innovation to be sure of competing in a global economy – how can you get involved?
By creating business and scientific collaborations in specific research areas the five-year programme aims to ensure Britain maintains its status as one of the world leaders in science, innovation and technology. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "We need to invest in these areas if we are to successfully compete in the global knowledge economy."
British scientists are already among the most successful in the world. We make up only 1% of the world’ science population but undertake 5% of the science and have 12% of all citations. As well as this we have the second largest pharmaceutical industry, the second largest biotech industry and eight of the world’ top 50 universities.
But world economy is changing. In one generation China could challenge the US as the largest economy in the world. India is already producing three million highly skilled graduates a year and countries from Central and Eastern Europe, with wage costs a fraction of those in Britain, have joined the European Union.
A global knowledge economy
The Creating Wealth from Knowledge programme states that in order to compete in this global economy Britain needs to develop a modern, highly skilled, knowledge-based economy that embraces innovation, science and technology. We need to create new partnerships between industry and research, bring together the private and public sectors, and invest in priority technologies. In other words Britain needs you!
The DTI’ Technology Strategy – overseen by the Technology Strategy Board – will identify these priority technologies for further investment. These currently include: design, simulation and modelling, pervasive computing (including networks and sensors), micro- and nanotechnology, imaging technologies, bio-based industrial products and processes, energy technologies, waste management and minimisation, smart materials and related structures and optoelectronics and disruptive electronic technologies.
"It’ not about picking winning companies," continued Hewitt. "It’ about providing investment where there are clear gaps in the market. We want to kick-start research and development in these areas to ensure that the latest ideas and technologies can be turned into business, jobs and prosperity for Britain."
Within these specialities funding is available for both collaborative R&D projects. Grants of between 25% and 75% are available for both the scientific establishment and the business partners, to help cover some of the enormous costs involved with research and Development.
Knowledge Transfer Networks can also find support through a DTI grant. These networks help information sharing between potential investors and scientists. They can help identify suitable collaboration partners, provide information on patents and provide a platform for opinion and scientific debate. They may include representatives from Business and Regional Development Agencies, academia and Government departments, to name a few.
Application dates and deadlines for April 2005 funding
completion (dates are for demonstration purposes only)
1st April………………………………………Competition for funding opens
10th June………………………………………..Outline submission deadline
8th July ………………………………………….End of Outline assessment
2nd September……………………………………..Full application deadline
28th October…………………………………………End of Full assessment
Applications for collaborative R&D funding are invited in three key areas. Basic Research – which may be experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge or observable facts without any particular application or use in view. In other words, research carried out with the expectation that it will provide a foundation of knowledge, or form the background for a solution for future problems or possibilities.
Applied Research should be an original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge directed towards a specific practical application or objective. Experimental Development is the third area where fundingmay be available. Projects should include systematic work, which draws on existing knowledge, and is directed towards producing new materials, products and devices or to installing new services, systems or processes.
Knowledge Transfer Networks will be given funding if they focus on the priority technologies identified by the Technology Strategy Board. Applications for funding are two-stage. An initial Outline Application should bemade followed by a Full Application 12 weeks later. The Outline Application stage will be open for ten weeks, followed by a four-week assessment period. Full Applications can then be submitted with a final decision being reached 16 weeks later. From initial application to grant approval may take up to 30 weeks (see box above).
Design, Simulation and Modelling are identified by the DTI as a priority area for collaborative R&D in either a science-to-business or business-to-business arena. The focus should be on applied research and experimental development projects that create industry pilot applications.
These may include: systematic techniques to improve the design process or design cycle time, modelling and/or simulating components or equipment destined for demanding environments or using larger-scale or finer models for more detailed analysis. A project should typically last between one and three years.
Pervasive Computing projects should focus on enhancing and improving Britain’ information and communications excellence by developing reliable, secure, services of value to the British economy. These may include: enhancement and/or development of mobile and wireless communications, human computer interface design and development or micro-operating systems, control systems and artificial intelligence.
Projects in this priority areamay range from small, highly focused, basic research right through to applied research and experimental development projects. Projects should include at least one partner with defined end-user needs and last between two and four years.
Creating or improving Imaging Systems for healthcare and security applications is another priority area identified by the DTI Technology Strategy Board. This may be based on developing existing technologies or creating new image enhancement and analysis systems.
Applications for grants under the Imaging Systems headingmay include imaging people, cargo or luggage at airports, the development of biometric imaging systems or technologies for detecting weapons and explosives. Any project application in this area should have a strong emphasis on developing imaging systems for identified applications and should aim to be completed in one to three years.
Smart Materials encompass a range of sectors including construction, transportation, food and agriculture and healthcare. Applications for projects may include the development ofmaterials that respond to environmental stimuli, smart materials that may offer cost savings for industry through reduced emissions, enhanced durability or enhanced health and safety for example.
Applications for projects in the micro and nanotechnologies should typically include two or more collaborators seeking to undertake applied research – this may include a project to take forward the results of a basic research programme. Experimental development projects between two or more collaborators are also invited in micro and nanotechnologies with a view to producing new materials, products or devices. Projects should aim at two to four years duration.
For anyone interested in applying for funding in the Bio-based Industrial Products and Processes Technologies successful applications may be achieved in a host of areas ranging from the production of bio-based industrial feedstock and products from non-food crops, to biocatalysis in industrial processes. The project should last not less than three years.
Grants for Energy Technologies projects may focus on bio-energy, fuel cells, wave or tidal stream devices and offshore wind energy, to name a few. The Technology Strategy Board see these as critical areas of development which have the potential to offer significant prospects for new and renewable energy sources.
The landfill directive is forcing businesses to seek alternative means of waste disposal in the area of Waste Management and Minimisation. This may be by using more sustainable options such as minimisation, re-use or recycling. Applications are invited for collaborative R&D projects that address, for example, the development of new technologies and processes to reduce or eliminate waste, for new waste treatments and for alternatives to landfill such as thermal catalysts.
The final priority technology identified by the DTIs Technology Strategy Board is Optoelectronics and Disruptive Technologies. The application of such technologies can enhance the performance of a wide range of products across industries such as transport, lighting, security communications and medicine. Applications are invited for collaborative R&D projects that involve science to business and business to business interactions and should typically last between one and three years.
The application process opens twice a year – in spring and autumn. The first competition for 2005 starts in April, and will be completed by late October. The second round of grant applications for this year can be submitted in November, for a decision in May/June 2006.
The information provided is based on the November 2004 competition for funding and may be subject to change. At the time of going to press dates for the April competition had yet to be confirmed. For the latest information on priority technologies and details on the application process visit www.dti.gov.uk/ Technologyprogramme.
By Helen Turner