The Iain Gray ColumnThe chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board gives us a run-down of the organisation’s activities in the sectors identified by the government as the ‘Eight Great Technologies’

In a month when David Willetts gave an updated account of Eight Great Technologies  through a report published by Policy Exchange, including announcing links to  the Government’s £600m autumn statement, we were also extremely busy announcing progress. In particular with our Future Cities Demonstrator, our Catalyst in Industrial Biotech with BBSRC, our Web Mission to India, and Innovation Vouchers (to name but a few).

These programmes all have the potential for national and global economic and lifestyle improvement. I thought I’d share some of the links to the Innovation agenda, picking some examples from four of the areas in Willetts’ eight great technologies of big data, satellites, robots, modern genetics, regenerative medicine, agricultural technologies, advanced materials and energy storage.

Robots and Autonomous Systems

The Technology Strategy Board has established a Special Interest Group (SIG) on Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) with the aim of reducing fragmentation between world-class RAS capabilities in academia and industry (across business sectors) and of creating a coherent RAS vision for the UK.  The SIG ran the first of a series of roadmapping events on Jan 23rd to start highlighting key opportunities for value creation. We have also announced a £1m feasibility competition spurring on robotics development.

An example of where we have provided support is OC Robotics and the development of its LaserSnake technology to full-scale demonstration.  The company brings together advanced robotics and laser technologies to provide a robust and re-usable laser-cutting technology for use in confined and hazardous air and marine spaces for dismantling vessels and other structures.

Regenerative Medicines

The front page of 25 January’s Investors Chronicle proclaimed Biotech is back. This is great news and reinforces the value of our engagement over the last few years. The Cell Therapy Catapult is establishing itself and the £180 million Biomedical Catalyst continues from strength to strength providing responsive and effective support for the best life science opportunities arising in the UK, and you have until 21 February if you want to apply to be part of round three, information to help is here.

Sentinel Oncology is just one of many, many companies the Catalyst is supporting, as they create a game-changing drug to treat pancreatic cancer.

We are also working with Cancer Research UK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer in taking a significant step towards making targeted therapies available for people with cancer in the UK. This programme aims to establish the foundations for a national service that will ensure standardised, high quality, cost-effective genetic testing of tumours is available for people with cancer.

Agricultural Technologies

The global agricultural industry faces major challenges as it aims to produce sufficient food to meet anticipated future demand and meet changing public expectations.

The UK has real strength in biological sciences and Agrifood, with plenty of expertise for businesses to tap into right across the UK.  Small businesses working in Agrifood can apply for one of our Innovation vouchers right now, and have the chance of benefitting from expert advice, in order to help progress their innovation and growth.

SeAB energy (a company developing an anaerobic digester that turns organic waste into heat and power) has been the recipient of various Technology Strategy support products, including being part of our last Clean and Cool Mission to San Francisco. Find out more about SeAB energy at EcoBuild next month.

Advanced Materials

We have just announced that we are investing up to £2m in technical feasibility studies to stimulate innovation across four enabling technology areas, including advanced materials, to help ensure that small and micro businesses in the UK are well equipped to respond to market opportunities across a range of economic sectors.

We are about to invest up to £5m in highly innovative collaborative research and development that encourages the development and application of sustainable materials, products and processes.   Our aim is to support materials technologies that rapidly meet urgent and difficult environmental and social challenges. This competition starts on 4 March 2013, so if you register for our competition feeds, you’ll be notified as soon as it is open.

We’ve been privileged to have The Engineer report on a number of our successes, and we hope this will continue. You can also, of course, find out more on or by following me @Iain_Gray