From Concept to Commercialisation of Research

The BES, together with the Biochemical Society, hosted another successful Policy Lunchbox at Charles Darwin House yesterday. The guest speaker was David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) who delivered an engaging talk on the process of turning innovative ideas into real products and services. David identified a number of barriers to this progression and outlined how the TSB is working to address them.

One of the biggest issues is the significant risk involved in pursuing innovative ideas as well as a lack of long-term support for innovative projects due to a demand for immediate returns on investments. There is also a lack of long-term political planning. The UK Government does not harness its considerable market influence, which has the potential to drive innovation in its suppliers through forward-thinking procurement and regulation, alongside tax breaks to encourage investment in certain technologies. Since its creation, the TSB has developed a ‘toolbox’ of solutions to these barriers including providing coherent, long-term support to those involved in innovation and encouraging knowledge exchange, for example by hosting ‘Missions’ to introduce innovators to potential competitors, funders and collaborators, and creating _connect, an online social network.

The environment presents an important area in which innovation is key and David stated that the TSB has identified energy and food production as major markets for the coming years due to the considerable logistical challenges they pose. The need to double food production by 2050 will require significant innovation in agriculture, whilst increasing energy production without worsening damage to the environment will require novel design and planning. In response to this energy challenge, one of TSB’s ‘Catapult’ technology and innovation centres will focus on Offshore Renewable Energy. Sustainability, although a relatively small proportion of the budget, is a specific, dedicated programme within TSB and underpins all of the board’s work.

Already, TSB’s work has contributed to innovative environmental projects. A Demonstrator Project (designed to encourage further innovation in the sector) tested consumer responses to newly introduced electric cars, measuring their habits, attitudes and opinions of the vehicles when using them for a year. Another scheme – Retrofit for the Future – used innovative technologies to adapt 118 social houses to reduce their carbon emissions by 80% and found significant energy and money savings for the residents.

With the Business Secretary Vince Cable MP announcing a further Catapult Centre yesterday and a range of funding opportunities and events planned for the new year, the TSB’s valuable work in driving innovation is set to continue.

David Bott’s presentation at the Policy Lunchbox was well received by all the attendees and led to some very interesting discussion afterwards.

We would like to thank David Bott for his participation today, and everyone who attended. The TSB report ‘Concept to Commercialisation’, which discusses the work of the TSB further is available online.

The next Policy Lunchbox event on 6th March will see Beck Smith, Assistant Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, discuss ‘how can the Government incentivise private sector investment in research and development?’ This event is full, but to join the waiting list contact James Lush at the Biochemical Society.