The UK’s Technology Strategy Board, Innovate UK, has announced that over the next four years it will invest £50 million in emerging technologies, doubling its past investment in early stage technologies. The ‘Emerging Technologies and Industries’ strategy will help UK business and academia develop potential life-changing concepts in areas such as synthetic biology, energy harvesting and composite materials.
In addition to optical and photonics technologies, emerging imaging tools were identified, which included new hyperspectral cameras to detect harmful objects and substances such as explosives, and, better imaging technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The initiative was set up to not only recognise the commercial potential of an idea, but the capability to significantly improve different aspects of society as well as generate new sources of wealth and disrupt global markets. Within the next decade, Innovate UK aims to see Britain poised to lead the world in one or more major new growth sectors of around £1 billion turnover from an emerging technology area.
‘Much of Innovate UK’s funding and expertise goes to support business innovation where the commercial opportunities are well understood and the technological challenges known – even if the solutions are not,’ Innovate UK’s chief executive, Iain Gray, said. ‘But it is vital that we also look further ahead, scanning the horizon for the breakthroughs of tomorrow. With our strong and inventive research base, the UK is an excellent source of high potential early-stage technologies. This new investment will help make the push for full commercialisation, creating real economic growth for the UK in the process.’
The strategy board has identified several application fields where new technologies could impact global economies and societies.
This includes new ways of producing strong, lightweight composites for a range of applications such as the automotive industry. It also announced the need for more energy-efficient devices and sensors that will be used in environments where a power supply is limited or absent. And, synthetic biology has also been identified as a potential technology that could benefit society, including the development of ultra-specific sensors to ensure the hygiene of food and prevent food-related illnesses.
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