House of Lords Recognises Catapult Network as a Critical National Asset

Last week the Catapult Network was highlighted as unique and critical national innovation assets by the UK House of Lords in a debate on their Science and Technology Committee report ‘Catapults: Bridging the Gap between Research and Industry.

The debate, staged on 19 May 2022, saw the Catapults acknowledged for their established impact on today’s R&D, and their key role in the delivery of the UK Government’s innovation strategy and ‘levelling-up’ and skills agendas.

The Catapult Network brings together nine elite independent technology and innovation centres across the UK – including Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC). They support their nationally strategic sectors by transforming great academic ideas into valuable industrial products and services. The Catapult Network delivers impact across the UK economy and enables UK businesses to thrive in global markets.

The report ‘Catapults: Bridging the Gap between Research and Industry’ was published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in 2021 and describes the findings of the inquiry into how Catapults can contribute to the delivery of the UK’S R&D roadmap.

The concluding recommendations of the debate included reference to additional funding opportunities and acknowledgment that as the UK’s national innovation asset, there is the potential to further exploit promising technologies and sectors, for national benefit.

The Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for BEIS), said:

 “The Catapult Network has made a huge impact across the R&D ecosystem….

“…The Catapults are integral to achieving our goal of increasing our investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. To meet the target, we are engaging the whole ecosystem of businesses, government, R&D-performing organisations, academia, finance providers, funders, international partners and others to come together. As has been pointed out, Catapults are a key vehicle to convening industry and helping us to deliver this.”

The Lord Mair CBE, leading the debate on behalf of the Committee, highlighted the ongoing impact of the Catapult Network, saying:

“The Catapult Network has proved to be an important national asset.

“Catapults provide the physical and digital infrastructure needed to test, certify and develop new products, processes, services and technologies, safely and effectively. They assist late-stage R&D by allowing access to specialist equipment, knowledge and data that would otherwise be unaffordable or inaccessible to companies.”

Prof. Chris Molloy, CEO of Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“The cross-party support and calls for more resources seen in this debate is testament to the current impact and future potential of Catapults. We are a vital link in the chain of innovation, resource other nations lack and a competitive advantage exactly when it is most needed. We are actively tackling the biggest challenges that society and our strategic industries face today. “MDC supports the Medicines R&D sector by applying technologies and techniques that improve their predictability and productivity. This helps attract new private sector funding, drives national R&D programmes in areas of unmet patient need and improves the business environment for UK biotech. “

“So far, MDC has leveraged over £300 million in private funding, helped 150 companies across the nation, translated AI and biotech SME products from concept to market, driven the adoption of preclinical imaging and coordinated the largest diagnostics project in UK history.

“The increased Government support galvanised through this debate, enables MDC to continue to drive forward our vision, working with the sector to reshape drug R&D for patient and national benefit.”

Matthew Durdy, Chair of the Catapult Network and CEO of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult welcomed the debate and the response from Her Majesty’s Government, saying:

“The Catapult Network welcomes the tremendous vote of confidence in the Catapults as key to achieving some of society’s most important ambitions.

“From developing vaccines to spurring local regeneration, the Catapults – with the support of Innovate UK – are putting UK innovation in the global spotlight, bringing in investment, supporting growth and providing the vital link between industry and academia: taking ideas from concept to economic growth.

“But we were particularly pleased at the recognition of our potential to do even more.

“The Catapult Network, as a national innovation asset, is uniquely positioned to drive levelling up, develop vital new UK skills and leverage essential private investment.

“Now, with confirmed access to additional funding opportunities, ongoing government support and an acknowledgement of the Catapult Network’s potential to deliver huge impact in areas of real national interest, we will continue our work with Innovate UK to bring real change for the benefit of all.

“The Catapult Network is proud to play its part in delivering the innovation that supports communities, businesses and economies across the UK and we are looking forward to continuing our work and growing our contribution.”

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