Regional SME innovation clusters to receive up to £75m boost to economies

Regional SME clusters of innovation across the UK, backed by up to £75m, will boost local economies and pioneer game-changing solutions from healthcare to net zero.

Regional small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) clusters of world-class innovation across the UK are being backed by a share of £75 million that will boost local economies and pioneer game-changing solutions from healthcare to net zero. This was announced today (23 October) by UK Science Minister George Freeman.

Following pilots in Liverpool and Teesside, launched earlier this year, a further eight Launchpads, funded by Innovate UK, will be rolled out across every nation of the UK.

These initiatives will build on existing clusters of high-tech innovation in each region, such as renewable energy in Southwest Wales, agricultural technology (agri-tech) and food tech in East Anglia and health technologies in Yorkshire.

Supporting emerging clusters of SMEs

Launchpads are local programmes that support emerging clusters of SMEs by providing each Launchpad up to £7.5 million from Innovate UK to fund innovation projects led by businesses.

The £7.5 million bespoke funding from each Launchpad will allow SMEs to bid for support that is tailored to the unique needs of each business cluster. This will help them drive innovation, expand operations and boost their local economies.

Launchpads concentrate their support in specific areas of the UK with strong innovation capabilities.

This approach encourages close collaboration with local leaders and provides tailored support, including:

  • funding for research and development
  • access to specialised innovation resources
  • opportunities for SMEs to connect, share ideas and participate in joint ventures

Scaling up from the Launchpad pilots

Eight new Launchpads are announced following the delivery of two pilots in 2022 to 2023. This follows through Innovate UK’s commitment in its strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025 to “establish up to 10 Launchpad investments, anchored in high-growth innovation SME clusters”.

To determine the geographical and sector focus of the next eight Launchpads, local leaders submitted their proposals in response to Innovate UK’s call for ideas, with more than 40 received from across the UK.

A panel of senior Innovate UK directors, along with input from experts and academia, carefully considered the merits of these proposals. Based on the panel’s recommendations, the next eight Launchpads were selected.

The core mission for the Launchpad programme is to support the government’s objective to establish world-leading, globally interconnected innovation clusters, catalysing increased employment, economic growth and productivity within these regions.

Pivotal role in levelling up the UK

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, who has made government support for regional research and development (R&D) and innovation clusters a key priority, said:

The UK science, research and innovation economy is not just the ‘golden triangle’ of Cambridge-Oxford-London. It is all around the UK.

From Glasgow satellite manufacturing to Manchester materials, Teesside hydrogen and Liverpool life sciences, alongside as many as 25 other globally recognised hubs around the UK – we have world class R&D – and supporting these regional clusters of world class innovation is central to our plan to make the UK an ‘Innovation Nation’.

That is why we have launched our flagship Launchpads programme – and this £75 million investment will support high-growth companies to build the industries of tomorrow – in sectors from renewable energy through to digital health. These Launchpads will play a pivotal role in growing our local economies, creating jobs and levelling up the UK.

Benefits to local communities

Indro Mukerjee, Chief Executive of Innovate UK said:

Innovate UK is building strong regional partnerships across the UK to support local innovation and commercialisation.

Our new Launchpads will help to attract further private sector R&D investment into innovation clusters, growing local economies and delivering societal and economic benefits to local communities.

Creating jobs and growing prosperity

Welsh Secretary of State David TC Davies said:

It is fantastic that £7.5 million of UK government funding is coming to Southwest Wales to support the growing net zero industry in this part of the country.

There are some really innovative businesses who are already collaborating with each other and researchers to develop industries of the future, and this Launchpad funding will deliver what they need to take their work to the next level.

The UK government is committed to creating jobs and growing prosperity in Wales, and this is exactly the type of intervention that will help to foster a modern 21st century economy in the Neath Port Talbot area.

Help boost economic growth

UK Government Minister for Scotland, John Lamont said:

Scotland is a world leader in scientific innovation and research and development across a range of hi-tech sectors.

This funding from the UK government for a Scottish bio-based manufacturing launchpad, connected to the other clusters across the UK, will help boost economic growth and ensure our businesses are at the forefront of sustainable production techniques.

Exchanging ideas with experts across UK

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said:

The creation of a Precision Medicine Launchpad in Northern Ireland opens up fantastic opportunities for innovative small and medium healthcare and medical firms to flourish.

This new network of UK government innovation clusters provides the ideal environment for local firms to exchange ideas with experts across the UK, to progress and thrive, and will provide a wealth of economic opportunities.

Further information

The eight clusters, following the two pilot investments in Liverpool City Region and Teesside, to receive funding are as follows.

Net Zero Industry Launchpad

Located in South West Wales, this Launchpad is dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable solutions in net zero industrial emissions

Digital Technologies Launchpad

Positioned in North East England, this Launchpad will be at the forefront of digital technologies applied into fast growth and emerging markets.

Health Technologies Launchpad

Based in West Yorkshire, this Launchpad is dedicated to pioneering breakthroughs in technologies that will improve healthcare outcomes.

Agri-tech and Food Tech Launchpad

Nestled in Eastern England, this Launchpad will revolutionise agri-tech and food technology, driving innovation in food production and sustainability.

Marine and Maritime Launchpad

Located in the Great South West, this Launchpad will support initiatives in marine and maritime industries, fostering growth and sustainability in this sector.

Bio-based Manufacturing Launchpad

Positioned in Scotland, this Launchpad will drive innovations in bio-based manufacturing, promoting sustainable production methods.

Immersive and Creative Industries Launchpad

Centred on Coventry and Warwickshire in the West Midlands, this Launchpad will champion technologies for the creative industries and immersive experiences, paving the way for groundbreaking innovations. Innovate UK will deliver this Launchpad in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Life and Health Sciences Launchpad

Situated in Northern Ireland, this Launchpad is dedicated to the advancement of healthcare solutions and medical breakthroughs.

The pilot Launchpads

Tees Valley pilot

Tees Valley was selected as the location for Net Zero Launchpad with the initial focus of offshore wind, hydrogen production, distribution and usage, and carbon capture, usage and storage within the net zero theme.

Liverpool City Region pilot

This pilot focused on the manufacturing sector, with digital technologies and net zero outcomes, building on the local economic strengths, R&D assets and strategic priorities.

Top image:  Credit: Dmytro, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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