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UK must subsidise R&D into green technology, says Tory think tank

The government must create a new high-risk laboratory to research cutting edge green technology and hand out tax breaks for businesses that replace gas boilers with heat pumps, according to a leading Tory think tank.

Onward, which is run by a large number of Conservative MPs and party grandees, today said in a new report that the UK is lagging behind in “the development of technologies likely to be critical to decarbonisation in the next thirty years”.

Boris Johnson’s government has a target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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The landmark United Nations Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow next month is being billed as one of the last opportunities to broker a global deal to keep global climate change to less than 1.5 degrees.

Onward said the government needed to pull policy levers to spur more private sector research and development (R&D) spending in green technologies.

The think tank says this could be done by direct subsidies to labs researching carbon capture technology and tax breaks to businesses that replace their boilers with more environmentally friendly heat pumps.

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The report also suggests creating a National Energy Laboratory to “conduct high-risk net zero research to overcome energy system challenges” that is modelled on similar agencies in Germany and the US.

Ted Christie-Miller, co-author of the report and head of carbon removals at BeZero Carbon, said: “The government needs to consciously create the incentives and build the institutions necessary to create an explosion in the R&D, commercialisation and diffusion of key net zero technologies.

“If we don’t act fast, we will pay the price in higher emissions, lower competitiveness, greater societal disruption and higher costs for consumers and taxpayers.”

By Stefan Boscia

Source: City AM

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South East businesses claim £1.3bn for innovation with R&D tax credits

South East businesses claimed the second-highest number of research and development (R&D) tax credits than any other region for the 19/20 financial year, according to HMRC’s R&D tax relief report, which was released on 30 September 2021.

London claimed the first spot.

£1.3bn was received by South East registered businesses, with a total of 12,740 claims, a number that will continue to grow as 19/20 years remain open for claims until March 2022. The average claim amount was £104,000.

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The report shows a 20% increase in the total amount claimed by South East businesses, with a 17% increase in the number of claims, from tax year 18/19 to 19/20.

According to the report, the sectors where the highest number of R&D claims across the UK were made are Information and Communication (22%), Manufacturing (22%) and Professional, Scientific and Technical (19%) sectors, accounting for 20%, 25% and 24% of the total amount claimed, respectively.

Leslie Maloney said: “The uplift in the number of R&D tax relief claims in the South East represents an increasing awareness of HMRC’s tax relief scheme and increasing innovation within the region, which is wonderful to see.

“The key take-aways from this year’s R&D tax credit report is the two growth areas in Professional, Scientific and Technical and Information and Communication, both of which saw significant expansion in number of claims made in 2019-20.

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“I personally believe this report shows opportunity for real growth for innovative businesses in the South East, particularly in those high growth sectors and a shift towards the new economy. The more traditional sectors like Manufacturing and Construction have been claiming R&D for many years and we expect this to continue but for Professional, Scientific and Technical and Information and Communication to be the main drivers of growth in helping the country to recover economically. This will be reflected in 2022’s report.”

The average claim value across the UK is sitting at approximately £57,000. There has however been an increase in the number of claims made from last year, from 74,200 to 85,900 and this figure will certainly increase.

R&D tax credits are a HMRC incentive to encourage UK businesses to continue to grow by innovating. The incentive being a reduction in corporation tax or a cash payment.

Story by Barney Cotton

Source: Business Leader

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Innovate UK is offering £14.4 million in funding for “healthy ageing” designs

Innovate UK has launched a fund worth £14.4 million to support initiatives that encourage healthy ageing through service design.

The Designed for Ageing funding competition is part of a wider push by Innovate UK parent organisation UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), called the Healthy Ageing Challenge. The challenge has been developed to help businesses and social enterprises to create “products and services to help people as they age”, according to UKRI.

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“Think beyond comfortable shoes and stairlifts”

How design can help people age more comfortably is a perennial topic of the industry, and one that Design Week has covered before.

“Despite more of us living for longer and wanting to choose how to live in later life, the market for products and services which genuinely meet the needs of older people is fairly underdeveloped,” says UKRI design innovation lead Julia Glenn.

“Designing for ageing needs to think beyond comfortable shoes and stairlifts,” she adds.

“Game-changing service-led innovations”

Successful applicants to the fund can bid for a share of up to £2 million to support their idea. The lowest funding amount is £500,000.

Briefing documents for the fund say the ultimate aim is to deliver a suite of “game-changing service-led innovations”, which address the current under-provision of products and services for older people.

Those looking to apply will need to have a business-led idea that is near-to-market and has the potential to scale, according to the competition description.

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“Good, people-centred design”

Successful projects will need to have been co-designed with the people who are going to use them, Innovate UK says, while “good, people-centred design” should be at the centre.

To enforce this, all projects will be subject to a “design stage gate review” at the six-month point. Projects must pass this to continue to receive funding. “We need to address the proper design of flexible life choices for older people, of financial services beyond pensions and see that ageing is a continuum, not a boundary line,” explains Glenn.

Another requirement is for projects to conduct industrial research to develop “new and applied knowledge”. This research will ultimately positively market readiness, the brief says.

Potential themes

A series of themes have been highlighted as targets for prospective projects. These include initiatives that enable self-care and new models of care for independent living; and those that encourage the sustaining of physical activity for people aged 50 and above.

Other targets could include projects that improve mental health, or those that address the “common complaints” of ageing, like incontinence, pain, mobility, or a loss of hearing or eyesight.

By Molly Long

Source: Design Week

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Recycl8 secures six figure funding from Innovate UK

North east environment technology firm Recycl8 has been awarded a grant by the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK to accelerate the R&D phase of its ground-breaking low carbon process for the construction and concrete industry.

Recycl8 secured an Innovate UK Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge Award, worth £167,000, to carry out testing on its process.

The timescale of the testing phase, which is being carried out in the UK, has been cut by two thirds thanks to this additional funding. Initially scheduled to take place over 2–3 years, the testing process will now take 8–9 months and has already reached the halfway mark.

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Recycl8 works in collaboration with the waste-to-energy and global construction industries to transform Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) often destined for landfill into a high-performing, low-carbon concrete solution.

The testing is required by the Environment Agency (England and Wales) and SEPA in order for them to reclassify the processed material as a product rather than as waste. Following a successful outcome, the Environment Agency and SEPA would provide Recycl8 with a license to process the IBA and take the final product to market.

Recycl8’s unique process will allow IBA to make up to 60% by volume of the concrete. By replacing high C02 emitting cement and other virgin quarried materials, their technology will help concrete manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve their climate targets.

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Ian Skene, founder and managing director of Recycl8, said: “Following a very rigorous application process, we are extremely proud to have received this considerable funding grant from Innovate UK. By expediting the testing process and bringing our process to market ahead of schedule, we can create positive impact quicker as part of our commitment to the Circular Economy and net zero goals. If all UK concrete was made with Recycl8 technology we’d save around 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 – a hugely significant opportunity for both the construction industry and waste to energy industry as they tackle the carbon emissions challenges they face to meet international net zero targets.

“What’s more, as a company we are very gratified that the value our process adds to the Circular Economy, and the viability of our business proposition has been recognised by such a prestigious national organisation.”

Source: Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Innovate UK launches 2050 transport vision, calls for feedback

Innovate in the UK has launched its UK Transport Vision 2050 and is asking for feedback on plans that see fully driverless vehicles and 7G wireless.

The UK’s innovation agency has launched an in-depth study that sets out what the UK transport system may look like in 2050 with fully autonomous vehicles, digital twins and 7G wireless, outlining the likely steps along the way to achieving this.

The aim is to gather UK government and industry around a single vision, says Innovate UK. The study identifies six key areas, from connectivity, power, autonomy and infrastructure to demand and business models.

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“We will use this vision and our assessment of the UK’s relative strengths to determine where we invest our efforts over the coming years,” said Indro Mukerjee, Chief Executive Officer at Innovate UK. “We hope it will also inform and guide our partners in the public sector and in industry when they are making their investment decisions. We also welcome feedback to help us refine and improve this work.”

Autonomy will make road vehicles smarter, create opportunities for new services such as last-mile delivery by drone and deliver fully autonomous urban transport, and the report anticipates that the urban transport system, air transport, rail freight, ferries to and from UK islands and 90 percent of motorway HGVs will be fully autonomous by 2050.

The report sees widespread 4G connectivity by 2025 and 5G by 2030 with widespread 7G wireless (the generation after 6G currently in early development) by 2050 that will connect all road vehicles with each other and enable a sophisticated central traffic management system.

Electricity, hydrogen, ammonia and sustainable fuel will replace petroleum and create new opportunities for generation, production and distribution. Data connectivity is a key area, with the estimated global market size for vehicle data alone is $750 billion in 2030. One UK vehicle data company is planning to go public via a US special purpose SPAC to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the report goes a long way beyond this. It sees road vehicles capable of cooperating with other nearby vehicles to support traffic flow and safety by 2050 and capable of fully cooperative driving by 2050. This improved connectivity will be vital for real-time data gathering and will provide key information for the public sector, industry, travellers and maintenance. For example, real-time data will improve planning of road usage and lead to efficiencies, cost savings and emissions reductions.

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Developments in connectivity will enable planning simulations using artificial intelligence and machine learning and lead to more efficient traffic management systems with the creation of digital twins that will improve travel planning and routing.

The advanced train protection system, the European Train Control System (ETCS) level 2, will be rolled out on all UK trains by 2040 and 95% of UK mainline rail by 2050, while autonomous unmanned air traffic management (UTM) has been demonstrated and could be adopted commercially in the 2020s. This will be fully integrated into current air traffic, including commercial flight, by 2050 says the report. All recharging and refuelling systems and vehicles will be fully internet connected by 2030 to maximise energy management for motorists, vehicles and energy networks

“It is a time of incredible change for transport. UK and global net zero targets, greater connectivity and digitalisation, automation, and changing consumer habits all present significant challenges for transport industries,” said Mukerjee. “Rising to meet these challenges offers great opportunities for economic growth and for societal benefit – a cleaner environment, and better and more efficient ways for us all to get around and to deliver goods.”

The vision document will be regularly updated and used to inform decisions on future investments.

By Nick Flaherty

Source: EE News Europe

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Innovate UK support boosts jobs and R&D spend for AI sector

An Ipsos MORI study finds Innovate UK grant support has created jobs and new opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI) across the UK.

Support by Innovate UK for the burgeoning AI sector has boosted the number of jobs by over 1,100 and has seen grant funding of £323 million matched by £202 million of private investment.

The findings are revealed in a new study carried out by market research company Ipsos MORI on behalf of Innovate UK.

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Key findings are:

  • Innovate UK had increased the research and development (R&D) spending of recipient firms by £313 million to £666 million by the end of 2019
  • around 70% of firms awarded funding secured follow-on funding for subsequent development
  • around 20% of lead applicants secured follow-on equity investment, collectively raising over £750 million after being awarded funding
  • notable deals included funding rounds of over £40 million by Healthy.io, Rigetti, SoftIron, Tessian, and Yoyo
  • support provided by Innovate UK made a significant contribution, increasing equity investment raised by companies by 5.3% to 16.4%
  • Innovate UK committed £323 million in grant funding for the 757 projects within the scope of this evaluation
  • grants matched by approximately £202 million in private funding
  • jobs created totalled 1,132, of which 400 were R&D jobs.

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Sara El-Hanfy, Innovation Lead, Machine Learning and Data of Innovate UK, said: “We are supporting some of the brightest prospects in British business to develop and deploy AI technologies. These technologies are already on the way to revolutionise the economy and society.

“It is vital that the UK maintains its position in this global sector and it is clear from the findings in this study that Innovate UK’s support is making a real difference.”

Source: Cambridge Network

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Software firm secures Innovate UK funding

A Belfast-based compliance software firm has secured funding from Innovate UK which will lead to creation of jobs in the coming months.

Obbi Solutions, which has been awarded £300,000, is a software platform for integrated compliance of people, processes and safety through HR, operations and health and safety teams.

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It enables firms to connect paper or manual processes into an automated workflow to save time, money and mitigate risk.

Founding director Gareth Macklin said: “We are extremely honoured that we have been awarded the funding of £300,000 from Innovate UK.

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“Securing this funding now enables us to accelerate our growth plans quicker than we have ever imagined. Our software development team will now be expanding, along with our sales and customer support teams.

“With concrete plans of growth with our solution, alongside expanding our team, this is an extremely exciting time for the entire Obbi team. We believe Northern Ireland has some of the finest talent out there, which is why we are exceptionally proud to be able to offer additional roles within Obbi.”

By Adam Beech

Source: Insider Media

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UK innovation relies on connections between business and academia

Dr Joe Marshall, chief executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), argues that while the UK government’s new Innovation Strategy is a good start, the key to growth is enabling powerful connections between the worlds of business and academia

The new Innovation Strategy is a welcome sign that the government realises the importance of cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in science, research and innovation.

Although the 113-page document sets out a clear vision focused on innovation missions and seven strategic technologies – including robotics, genomics and AI – a strategy alone is not enough.

It is critical that the strategy is now backed with a drive to simplify and encourage innovation – making it easier for businesses to ‘do’ innovation in the real world.

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The power of collaboration

As the country comes out of the pandemic vigorously seeking new sources for economic growth, it is more important than ever that policymakers, businesses and universities work together to build the foundations for a more prosperous future.

The pandemic has been tough on everyone, but it has shown us what can be achieved through public-private collaboration, particularly with the vaccine development.

To hit the ambitious target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027, companies are going to need to invest an additional £17.4bn in research, compared to 2017 levels. In order to attract this private investment, we need to find the best researchers and ideas.

This brings me to one of the main barriers to innovation: an inability to make the right connections.

It is not so much understanding the need to innovate, but rather how companies find the most suitable R&D partners, and how researchers find the best companies to turn their expertise into a viable product or service.

It is not simply a question of publishing strategies and setting targets, welcome though those are, but more a case of simplifying how businesses and researchers navigate their way through the innovation ecosystem to find each other.

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Finding the right partners

At the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), we know from speaking to companies of all sizes that they see the research conducted at the UK’s world-leading universities as a major driver for their own innovation efforts.

Many businesses know they need to invest in R&D, and they also know the key could well lie within academic research teams – but the system needs to be simplified so they can get a clearer understanding of how to find out which researchers they should be talking to.

That’s why it was encouraging to see a mention of the NCUB’s collaboration brokerage tool, Konfer, in the Innovation Strategy – specifically in the section aligned with a call for new ideas, talent, and funding.

This was apt because the UK is awash with ideas and talent and funding. What it needs is a way to bring the elements together.

The Konfer network comprises more than 144,000 academics from 153 universities with a searchable database offering access to 1.4m research publications and projects.

The breadth and depth of the data is put to good use through targeted software that links businesses with relevant researchers and facilities, democratising opportunities to connect to those who do not have access to the right networks.

A simpler innovation pathway

Of course, this mainly works for those companies that are already ‘sold’ on the need to innovate and are actively seeking new collaborations.

To truly grow the UK’s R&D expertise and boost innovation, we also need to be taking the conversation to those businesses that are unaware of the opportunities of collaborating with university research teams.

To ensure these newcomers aren’t put off by jargon and complexity, we need to simplify the landscape and use technology to encourage businesses and researchers to collaborate.

Quite simply, we need an infrastructure dedicated to enabling connections.

The Innovation Strategy is an encouraging start, but a strategy is never the final word. We need a route as well as a destination point, and the aim must be to make innovation simpler.

Source: Open Access Government

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Research initiative handed Innovate UK funding

Oxfordshire-based Nexeon, which is developing advanced silicon materials for next generation lithium ion batteries, has secured funding from Innovate UK for a new collaborative research initiative.

The £1.5m Silicon Anode Battery for Rapid Electrification (SABRE) project will develop battery cells with higher energy density in response to the demand for increased electric vehicle driving range.

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The SABRE project has been awarded funding from the Faraday Battery Challenge at UK Research and Innovation.

Nexeon will work with its partners Britishvolt and University College London (UCL) to deliver test cells with a combination of advanced Li-ion cell design and novel silicon anode material.

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“We are very excited to lead this important work, and to collaborate with our partners in designing and producing higher performance battery cells,” said Dr Scott Brown, chief executive of Nexeon.

“This project, and others like it, are important in building a UK-based lithium ion battery capability, and reducing risk in an increasingly competitive supply chain.”

By Storm Rannard

Source: Insider Media

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Research And Development Investment Programme Launches In UK

A UK-wide investment programme has launched to deliver £375m of government funding to research and development (R&D)-intensive firms operating in “breakthrough” technology sectors.

The Future Fund: Breakthrough programme, which opened for investor applications on 20 July 2021, was originally announced by the chancellor of the exchequer during the Budget in March, and will be delivered by British Patient Capital – a commercial subsidiary of the UK government’s economic development bank, British Business Bank.

The fund is designed to target later stage R&D-intensive firms in breakthrough technology sectors, including quantum computing, cleantech, and life sciences, to fuel their continued growth.

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Because of their potential to have a significant economic impact, the growth of these innovative companies is seen as critical by the government to the UK’s future prosperity and economic recovery.

British Patient Capital will aim, over time, to construct a portfolio of growth-stage breakthrough tech companies, and will make equity co-investments alongside private sector investors.

“With many world-class universities and a strong track record in science and research, the UK is fertile ground for creating high-growth companies based on cutting edge technologies,” said Judith Hartley, CEO, British Patient Capital.

“Through the commercialisation of R&D, these transformative companies will help to accelerate the deployment of innovative breakthrough technologies that can transform major industries, develop new medicines, support the transition to a net zero economy and strengthen the UK’s position as a science superpower.

“Future Fund: Breakthrough will enable these R&D intensive companies to raise the patient capital they need to fuel the later stages of their growth, and in doing so, help ensure the UK is a world leader in the industries of the future.”

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Programme eligibility

To be eligible for the scheme, companies must be raising a minimum total investment round size of £30m, with the fund making a maximum contribution of 30% to each round – meaning the minimum amount of private sector funding needed is £21m.

The company must also have raised at least £5m of equity investment from third-party investors in previous funding rounds. It must also be UK-based and have significant operations in the country.

In terms of its activity, the company seeking investment must have been spending an average of at least 10% of its total operational cost base on R&D over the past three years, or at least 15% in one of the past three years.

It must also intend for 20% or more employees to be carrying out research for at least three years from the date of investment, in roles that require a relevant master’s degree or higher. 

However, as an investor-led programme, funding applications can only be made by a qualifying lead investor and not by companies themselves.

“As the potential of technologies like AI, machine learning and quantum computing become fully realised and applied at scale, R&D funding is more important than ever to turn the UK’s new breed of innovators into game-changing market leaders,” said Gerard Grech, chief executive of entrepreneurial network Tech Nation.

“Funds focused specifically on R&D intensive companies aligned to the UK’s strategic sectors, including net zero companies, will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society today. It will open up new job opportunities, drive economic growth, and cement UK tech as world-leading.”

The scheme is separate and different to the now closed Future Fund that provided convertible loans of up to £5m to a wide variety of innovative UK companies, to address the funding challenges caused by Covid-19.

In May 2021, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report calling for an inclusive and innovative economy, which it said could be achieved in part through increasing R&D investment to match the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) levels.

By 2030, the report said, the UK will have a “distinctive advantage” through its focus on innovation, “including in new technologies, where we will become a natural global hub for R&D”.

The CBI has on several previous occasions called on the government to increase its investment in R&D.

Previous investment in ‘impact startups’

In October 2020, research by Tech Nation and market intelligence firm Dealroom showed that investment in UK technology startups addressing one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals has increased nearly 10-fold in six years.

The data further revealed that these firms – also known as “impact startups” – raised €1.4bn up to that point in 2020, with cleantech and climate tech companies raising most of the capital.

Impact startups now account for over 15% of all European venture capital (VC) investment – double the global average and three times higher than a decade ago, with European firms receiving a total of €6bn in 2019 alone.

Most of this investment in the wider European context has gone to climate technology startups, including those developing electric vehicles, which have attracted €9.8bn of VC investment in the past five years.

Separate research by Tech Nation from early September 2020 also revealed that, within Europe, UK net zero startups were leading the way in investment, receiving £336m in 2019, a 28% increase on the previous year. By contrast, French and German net-zero firms secured £216m and £283m, respectively.

By Kevin Colleran

Source: Tech Live

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