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British companies are to be supported to develop new products and services in areas such as health, defence, transport and construction through a GBP100m Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

Through the SBRI scheme, public-sector organisations will invite British companies to submit ideas and develop new technologies that the public-sector organisation could then buy to help improve public services.

A trial of the scheme was run by the Department of Health in 2008.

Companies were invited to develop technologies and systems to improve hand hygiene, in order to reduce the number of infections – such as MRSA – contracted in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

The most promising ideas will be developed into prototypes, which may then result in the product or service being bought for use by hospitals and surgeries.

The Department of Health plans to fund new SBRI competitions in other areas where new technology may help improve public services, while the East of England Strategic Health Authority is launching three SBRI competitions, focusing on technologies to help manage patients with long-term conditions, enable better patient monitoring and encourage children to take more exercise.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is using SBRI to find ways to lighten the load for soldiers operating in war zones such as Afghanistan.

It is inviting companies to come up with novel lightweight technologies and materials that reduce the weight carried by infantry soldiers, and their weapons and ammunition.

The MoD is also looking for ideas for highly mobile robotic vehicles that can support soldiers in the field and carry some of their equipment.

SBRI has been promoted by the Technology Strategy Board, the organisation that has been established by the government to support the development of new technology for the benefit of the British economy.

The Department of Transport, Department of Communities and Local Government and Home Office are running and developing further competitions through the SBRI scheme.

20 funding competitions will be launched over the coming year, with contacts worth a total of GBP40m available.

This will be expanded to 50 competitions, worth more than GBP100m, by 2011.

Technology Strategy Board

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