TSB's Catapult programme 'on the right track'

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Business Secretary Vince Cable last month opened new facilities for the latest Catapult – Transport Systems – which has been getting up to speed over the last year and a half. The Transport Systems 'Imovation' Centre – a portmanteau title combining Intelligent Mobility and Innovation – provides modelling and testing facilities that allow new products to be properly developed, trialled and demonstrated.

"This new innovation centre will ensure the UK is well placed to profit from the increased demand for high-tech transport solutions – creating jobs, supporting businesses and driving economic growth," he contended. Transport Systems is one of the seven sectors identified as having the potential for world-leading British-based technology companies. The other six are Satellite Applications, Future Cities, Cell Therapy, High Value Manufacturing, Renewable Offshore Energy and Connected Digital Economy. Each sector has its own 'Catapult', funded both by the private sector and, via the Technology Strategy Board, through the Government. The objective is to co-ordinate business and research to create world leadership in these sectors. So, with most of the Catapults being a year or year and a half old, is the Technology Strategy Board happy with early progress? "Yes we are," claimed Director of Catapults Simon Edmonds. "From the progress we are seeing, from all of the reviews that we are doing, we are very happy. High Value Manufacturing and Cell Therapy are doing really well, as is Satellite Applications. Offshore Renewable Energy is starting to coalesce the industry around the huge opportunity – the UK is the biggest offshore wind deployer in Europe." A review is currently being undertaken by Dr Hermann Hauser, the author of the original study in 2010 on which the Catapult programme is based. His review, expected this autumn, will play a central role in determining the programme's future, although cross party support for a long term programme was considered essential for its success, so tweaks or expansion of the programme are more likely conclusions of the review than negative feedback. Edmonds is expecting the report to be positive and points to the opening, also last month, of the £100million Rolls-Royce aerospace engine disc factory in Sunderland. "This was Rolls-Royce doing key product and process development in a Catapult Centre, then building a factory to put the technology, developed in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, into a production environment." • The electronics industry is providing enabling technology behind the work of the Catapults and will play a key role in the supply chains of many of the successful projects. The 22 July issue of New Electronics will be a special issue looking at the Catapult programme, the technologies being developed and the opportunity for electronics companies to get involved.