CEO blog: Industry confidence in innovation

I was at Harwell last week at the Satellite Applications Catapult to meet with the Secretary of State for BIS, The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP. Dr Cable gave a media presentation which described the Catapult programme and which resulted in some useful coverage both in the press and on TV.

The event was hosted by Stuart Martin and Tim Sherwood (CEO and Chairman respectively) of the Satellite Applications Catapult. Also in attendance were most of the CEO’s and Chairs of the other 6 Catapults.

These opportunities to get together with the leadership of the other Catapults are always worthwhile. The quality of people that the Catapult programme has attracted is exceptional and it’s a delight to be working with such capable and experienced people, who have great track records in their respective fields.

Dr Cable was very supportive of the Catapult programme and used the HVM Catapult to evidence progress in part of his speech. It’s clear that there is solid industry support for what we are doing. In the first full year of operation, for example, 35% of our income was from industry, against a stretch target of 33% and we have nearly 1000 staff working across the seven HVMC centres helping industry develop new manufacturing technologies.

Is some of this making a difference? Well there are plenty of examples of case studies on our website and there is a growing confidence in the manufacturing sector.

Just this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Lee Hopley the Chief Economist for the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) was interviewed about the upbeat attitude to innovation in manufacturing industry highlighted in some of their most recent research.

The EEF/Nat West Innovation Monitor shows that:

  • 71% of companies plan innovation to export to new markets in the next three years
  • 73% of companies plan to bring new products to market in the next three years
  • 75% of companies say speed to market is more important than it was in the past, but speed of innovation remains a top concern
  • Two thirds of companies collaborate with a research institution
  • Half of companies collaborate on research with organisations overseas
  • European research funding a positive benefit for UK companies

Lee said in her interview that a number of government schemes were helping industry with innovation and that these schemes were very well aligned with industry needs.

It’s good to see further tangible evidence of progress. Add to this the growing order book for work across the seven centres within the HVMC and we can piece together a picture that shows that appetite for innovation is not a flash in the pan but that is has all of the hallmarks of a more profound and sustained shift in the economy.

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