25th January 2013 Toronto, Canada

Eight great technologies

Earlier this week, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts gave a speech at the Policy Exchange on “eight great technologies” which will help the UK grow and prosper over the next decade. You can read the speech here, the BIS press release here and the Policy Exchange pamphlet here. Let’s look at each technology and see what this new strategy means for Canada:

  1. Big data
    • £150 M for e-infrastructure allocated in 2011-12
    • £189 M in the Autumn Statement for big data and energy-efficient computing
    • £23.5 M for an ESRC-led birth cohort study
    • In Ontario, the federal and provincial governments teamed up with IBM and seven local universities to construct a $210 M high-performance computing platform for massive data sets. A SIN project could link this capacity to the UK to make the data sets even more massive and the platform even more efficient.
  2. Space
    • £10 M National Space Technology Programme launched in 2011, attracting £17 M in matched funding
    • £25 M more dedicated to expand the Programme to meet more demand
    • Canada is a member of the European Space Agency, and so already collaborates with the UK on many space projects. Both Canada and the UK have great expertise in small satellites and aerospace technology, making this a natural area in which to expand joint working (and SIN already works on several UK-Canada aerospace projects).
  3. Robotics and autonomous systems
    • £35 M for centres of excellence in and around universities, innovation centres etc.
    • The Technology Strategy Board will launch a £1 M competition in February to accelerate the development of new concepts
    • Although Canada currently lacks a national robotics strategy, it enjoys extensive use of robots and autonomous systems in manufacturing, environmental monitoring, resource exploitation and remote exploration. SIN is currently considering an early-stage project to link the Bristol Robotics Laboratory with the Industrial Technology Centre.
  4. Synthetic biology
    • £90 M from the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board for research and commercialisation
    • £50 M in the Autumn Statement to implement the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap
    • £38 M for a National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre
    • Canada has growing expertise in synthetic biology, with the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology opening recently at Concordia University. A SIN project could augment this expertise with UK capabilities, accelerating the development of new technologies.
  5. Regenerative medicine
    • £25 M for the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform from the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board
    • £75 M for translational research from the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board
    • £25 M for the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform in the Autumn Statement
    • Canada has world-class expertise in regenerative medicine, with institutions like the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine advancing the field every day. SIN is working on a project to link Canada, the UK and the USA in a joint effort to standardise a commonly-used type of stem cell.
  6. Agri-science
    • £250 M to transform the Pirbright Institute of Animal Health and the Babraham and Norwich research park
    • £30 M in the Autumn Statement for BBSRC’s world-leading agri-science campuses, e.g. the construction of a new National Plant Phenomics Centre
    • Canada’s vast agricultural output necessitates significant resources going into research and development. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research centres are scattered across the country, specialising in the sectors that are important locally. SIN has already worked on gut health with British and Canadian researchers, and is considering early-stage projects with the University of Manitoba.
  7. Advanced materials
    • £45 M for new facilities and equipment in areas of UK strength (advanced composites, high-performance alloys, low-energy electronics and telecommunications, materials for energy, nano-materials for health)
    • £28 M expansion of the National Composites Centre
    • Canada has wide expertise in composites research, with groups across the country and the creation of the Composites Research Network last year. SIN is already working on composites as part of its aerospace programme, and is considering links between the UK and the Composites Innovation Centre.
  8. Energy
    • £30 M to create dedicated facilities to develop and test new grid-scale storage technologies
    • £65 M in the Autumn Statement for buildings, joint facilities and infrastructure
    • Canada’s new global position as a petro-state hasn’t prevented investment in renewables. SIN has been working coast-to-coast on projects in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and marine energy, and is considering new projects in energy storage and civil nuclear power.

Minister Willetts also announced £50 M for transformative equipment and infrastructure, £25 M to create a state-of-the-art measurement laboratory at the National Physical Laboratory and £350 M for EPSRC’s Centres for Doctoral Training.

As always, SIN will be at the forefront of UK-Canada scientific collaborations. Watch this blog and follow us on Twitter (@narbour and @jcpreece) for updates!

About John Preece

I cover science and innovation for Ontario (excluding Ottawa), liaising with all relevant research institutions and companies. In 2015 I expect to be working on future cities, high-performance computing and…

I cover science and innovation for Ontario (excluding Ottawa), liaising with all relevant research institutions and companies. In 2015 I expect to be working on future cities, high-performance computing and innovation in healthcare, as well as continuing prior work on dementia, regenerative medicine and science outreach. In the free time that I have after managing multiple small children, I enjoy home improvement and board/computer gaming. You can follow me on Twitter at @jcpreece