TSB fleshes out UK technology centre plans

The creation of a UK network of technology centres designed to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation moved a step closer today with the launch of the Technology Strategy Board’s (TSB) technology and innovation centres prospectus. 

The document outlines how the TSB plans to use more than £200m of government funding to establish six to eight technology and innovation centres between now and 2013. 

The decision to invest in the new centres follows recommendations made to the previous government by entrepreneur and home computing pioneer Hermann Hauser who proposed  long term investment in business focussed centres modelled on Germany’s hugely successful Fraunhofer organisation. 

Speaking to The Engineer last year Hauser said each centre should cost between £50m-£100m over 10 years. He identified regenerative medicine, renewable energy, future internet technologies, plastic electronics and advanced manufacturing as sectors that would benefit from their own centre.

The TSB has already announced plans to fast-track a high value manufacturing centre that will look to build on the UK’s expertise in a wide variety of manufacturing disciplines from the use of advanced metal and composite manufacturing techniques through to the latest advances in bio-processing. A further three to four centres will focus on either energy and resource efficiency, transport, healthcare, ICT or Electronics.

An announcement on the chosen areas is expected in April, but in the meantime the TSB is keen to gather feedback and suggestions on the first wave of ideas. The second phase of the programme is expected to begin next year.

Drawing on another of Hauser’s recommendations, the TSB is also keen to hear suggestions for a suitably prestigious name for the new centres. Hauser himself suggested they might be named Clerk Maxwell Centres, after the 19th-century Scottish physicist  James Clerk Maxwell, who first realised that light, electricity and magnetism were inextricably linked.