The government has announced £100m in funding for biotechnology projects focused on global challenges and driving economic growth.
The funding, which comes from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will be spread across six new engineering biology mission hubs, covering 22 different projects across the country, aimed at preparing for pandemics, innovating farming and protecting against floods.
The money was announced by science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan, who said the country’s long-term growth “is the only way we will deliver public services and improvements in living standards that every Briton wants for themselves and their families”.
“But as history shows, it is technological and scientific advances that are the true engine room of growth, and despite our existing strengths in these sectors, we cannot afford to pat ourselves on our back and take our eye off the ball,” she said.
“Cementing the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030 is more than a slogan. It is a goal we must reach if we want to grow our economy, continue creating well-paid jobs and build a better, healthier, more prosperous future for the UK.”
The money is part of a wider funding package that includes £21m to the UK Biobank, which aims to create a robotic freezer. It will be used to store 20 million samples of biological data to support medical research, as well as £7m in funding to the National Timing Centre R&D Programme for Quantum Clocks.
The government is also launching a £3m metascience grant funding call, created to support projects using scientific methods to deepen understanding of how structures, incentives and funding within R&D shape output and career outcomes. “The comprehensive bundle of new announcements and pledges will be integral to making the UK a science and technology superpower by 2030 and delivering long-term change across the country,” said Donelan.
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The funding comes as the government has launched its Innovation Clusters Map, giving a comprehensive picture of innovation activity in the UK.
The interactive map, created by a consortium of data scientists and economists from Cambridge Econometrics, the Data City and Innovation Caucus shows the country’s research, development and innovation clusters and is accessible to anyone who wants to use it. In total, the map shows 3,443 innovation clusters with 10 or more firms.
“Enabling these clusters to reach their potential is essential to delivering our ambition to make the UK the most innovative economy in the world,” said Donelan. “My vision is for world-class and globally leading clusters of innovation to exist across the UK as nexuses of opportunity and growth – places where innovative businesses thrive, local people have high-quality jobs, and the public and private sector work together to create a more sustainable, resilient, productive and innovation-led economy.”
She added that the map will play an important role in increasing private investment in innovation clusters, and ensure clusters can communicate their “investible propositions” to investors and that the country benefits from an innovation-led economy.