UK outlines medium-term technology strategies

The UK is setting up 'innovation platforms' in areas identified in a recent report as key to developing the UK's position in the international arena.

Two pilot platforms, in the areas of intelligent transport systems and services, and in network security, have already been established. They bring together business, the research community and governments in a fashion similar to that of the European Technology Platforms.

The innovation platforms are at the heart of the UK's Technology Strategy, published on 26 April. The document outlines the initial findings of the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) on seven technology priority areas identified in 2005, and medium-term strategies. The priority areas are:

  • advanced materials;
  • bioscience and healthcare;
  • design engineering and advanced manufacturing;
  • electronics and photonics;
  • emerging energy technologies;
  • information and communications technology (ICT);
  • sustainable production and consumption.

'The government is firmly committed to investing in the UK's future,' said UK Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury. 'These medium-term strategies provide a vision for the future to guide the government's continued investment in cutting edge technologies that will underpin business growth, focused around business' own priorities for the competitive challenges ahead.'

In advanced materials, the TSB identified two priorities: materials to support developments in energy supply and distribution; and materials for sensing and diagnostics. The report also recommends the establishment of an advanced materials network.

In the field of design engineering and advanced manufacturing, the TSB highlights the importance of design, simulation and modelling, emphasising: 'To remain globally competitive, UK firms will need to collaborate with the academic research base in continuing the development of advanced manufacturing techniques. These should include intelligent process control, advanced jointing technologies, and the development of special surfaces and other properties using nanotechnology.'

The increasing potential of the electronics and photonics sectors lie in the demand for improved functionality in ever smaller components. The UK's strengths in high performance and grid computing offer opportunities for exploitation in aerospace and defence, healthcare, transport logistics and financial services, according to the report.

For sustainable production and consumption, the TSB has identified four key areas in which, it claims, the UK has the capability to capitalise on growing world markets: energy efficiency; resource efficiency and the management of waste; technologies to promote a sustainable food chain; and technologies for the water industry.

Across all areas, the authors found a need for a more holistic approach, including the development of standards and metrology. "This will create a climate of confidence in the performance of new technologies, so broadening their application and speedup up adoption," states the report.

The TSB hopes that the Technology Strategy will not only make the UK more attractive for international companies considering relocating to the UK, but also boost international cooperation by increasing the UK's participation in the EU's research programmes. "An important objective is to ensure that UK organisations are able to take advantage of the network and support available through the Technology Strategy as a springboard to wider European collaboration through [the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)]."

The TSB has called on the UK's business community to submit comments on the document, so that this input can be used to shape the technology strategies as they develop.

For further information, please visit:
http://www.dti.gov.uk/technologystrategy/

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