£72m funding for design innovation

The Technology Strategy Board will next month launch the first of a series of research and development competitions, a number of which are directly relevant to the design industry.

The Government-funded organisation, which aims to secure the future of the UK economy through supporting the creation of innovative goods and services, has set aside £72m of funding and outlined plans for ten competitions on topics including sustainability, energy, transport, security and digital networks, all of which will open to industry over the next nine months. Projects can receive up to 50 per cent of the necessary funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

The first competition – Advanced Materials: Sustainable Materials and Products – will open on 10 November, inviting proposals from collaborative groups for products and materials that offer economically viable alternatives to the polluting, energy-intensive and wasteful ones currently used, as well as products or materials that can offer reduced environmental and societal impacts.

Participating consortiums – typically comprising tie-ups between businesses, academic institutions and suppliers – will be asked to submit ideas and business plans for new materials technologies, as well as the design of products that have an extended life or that are easier to repair, reuse or recycle.

According to Technology Strategy Board creative industries technologist Sian Brereton, the competitions offer design businesses an opportunity to realise ‘slightly more risky’ ideas, which, in the current economic climate, would not otherwise be entertained by traditional financiers.

‘We’re giving design businesses the opportunity to collaborate with other sectors and universities to innovate around technology and to develop new capabilities that can be exploited in the marketplace,’ says Brereton.

‘What we’re offering is to share the risk, while banks might want to play it safe in the current climate. This [competition] is allowing companies to make a big step change, and if innovation is to succeed, risks have to be taken. When times get tough, that’s when you need to be at your most innovative,’ she adds.

Design businesses looking to get involved in the competitions can’t go it alone, however. Submissions need to come via partnerships, and Knowledge Transfer Networks, of which thereare 22 across the UK, spanning various sectors and disciplines, are the best place to start.

Other competitions relevant to the design community include High Value Manufacturing, opening in January 2009, and Accessing and Commercialising Content in a Digitally Networked World, opening next March.

Technology strategy board competitions

Phase 1, opening 10 November:
• Advanced Materials: Sustainable Materials and Products

Phase 2, opening 19 January 2009:
• High Value Manufacturing: Step Changes in Competitiveness; Value Systems
• Low Impact Buildings: Design and Decision Tools

Phase 3, opening 16 March 2009:
• Creative Industries: Accessing and Commercialising Content in a Digitally Networked World

For further information visit: www.innovateuk.org

Latest articles