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Catapult Network set to propel UK industry into a 'new era' of prosperity

Is there space in our global village for a flag-waving, nationalistic technology sector? Putting the 'Great' back into Great Britain and all that?

Instinctively, perhaps, the answer is 'no', particularly when we consider that China is producing more qualified electronics engineers per year than the UK's entire engineering population.
But is that a reason to roll over and die?

Despite the fact that a disproportionate amount of the world's greatest engineers, scientists and inventors have come from the UK, manufacturing currently only contributes 10% of our GDP; Germany, by contrast, generates 20% of its GDP from manufacturing.

But trying to compete with countries with low labour costs is pointless; we need to bring something new to the party and that is the purpose of the Catapult programme. Based on a report submitted by Dr Hermann Hauser in 2010, the Catapult Programme was launched in order to identify and support sectors where British companies could use technology to develop world leading products and services – the key component here being the technology and knowledge behind the solutions.

The programme selected seven areas in which Britain has such potential and each has received considerable funding.

Inevitably, a technology-based solution, whatever the sector, is going to have a strong reliance on the electronics industry. Sensor technology is particularly prevalent throughout Catapult projects, but there is also considerable demand for such things as electronics control, measurement, infrastructure and communications.

This special issue of New Electronics is taking a look at the Catapult Programme, highlighting the most relevant Catapults and looking at how UK electronics companies can get involved. And there is opportunity for SME or multinational to either create innovative solutions themselves or play a supporting role in the supply chain of other companies.

There will always be doubts. Have we backed the right horses? Have we channelled the right resources into the fields? Are the projects big enough – ambitious enough – to really stimulate British industry and create worthwhile supply chains?

Early successes, particularly at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, indicate that it is a strategy with huge promise. As ever, time will tell.

Tim Fryer

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