Government revs up latest wave of clean tech innovation funding

Autonomous vehicle developers and flying climate labs are set to be among the recipients of a new wave of government funding, announced yesterday as part of London Tech Week.

Building on its recently published Innovation Strategy, the government yesterday announced it is to invest over £743m over the coming years in a raft of emerging technologies, many of which are focused on curbing carbon emissions and environmental impacts.

The funding includes £481m over three years for the UKRI Infrastructure Fund to support the development of innovative new infrastructure projects; £118m for UKRI’s Accelerating Impact programme, which aims to help commercialise ideas developed by UK universities; and the launch of UKRI’s ISCF Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge, which will see winners receive £6m funding across 16 projects that help to realise a ‘quantum-enabled economy’.

“The incredible work of the Vaccine Taskforce, housed at my department during the pandemic, demonstrated that this country is home to some of the best scientists and innovators in the world,” said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

“I’m immensely proud of the work we have done to support ground-breaking research so far, having confirmed £40bn in funding for R&D over the next three years and placing it at the very top of our agenda. London Tech Week itself is testament to that.

“And today, we’re announcing over £743m in investment – including in the latest quantum technologies, to ensure Britain has pole position in the global marketplace in a host of new areas.”

The new funding package also includes continued support for Innovate UK’s Fast Start competition, which provides a new series of Fast Start grants worth £30m to UK start-ups and entrepreneurs working to develop products, processes, and innovative services in key sectors such as healthcare and climate tech.

And the government confirmed the continuation of UKRI’s Future Leader Fellowships, which see a further £100m funding round provided to support the commercialisation of new technologies developed in UK research environments.

Meanwhile, a new Enabling a Responsible AI Ecosystem programme, led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and backed by £8.5m, aims to explore some of the ethical challenges associated with emerging AI technologies.

“We are living in a time of huge technological change,” said Science Minister George Freeman. “New technologies are creating new industries at a pace that would have been thought impossible, even 10 years ago. As a government, we must give our researchers and innovators the tools and the wherewithal to flourish.

“That’s why we’re announcing a record £743.5m package of investment into the technologies of tomorrow, putting entrepreneurs at the heart of our plans to help power our economy while tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges, and supporting our ambitions to make the UK a Science Superpower.”

The government also announced yesterday 84 winners from the previous round of Future Leader Fellowship funding, who will share £98m of funding to help them commercialise their technologies.

Winning innovations include plans for a fleet of self-driven satellites able to track and mitigate natural disasters and clogging-resistant permeable pavements that mitigate against the impacts of climate change and urbanisation-related flooding.

The announcements came on the same day as the government also launched its new Future of Freight plan, which aims to help curb the environmental impact of the haulage industry and encourage more people to work in the sector.

The strategy includes plans for a new Freight Energy Forum, led by both government and industry, that will be set up to help create a clear path to achieving net zero emissions and assessing the freight sector’s future energy and fuel needs, and a new £7m fund to help “decarbonise and digitalise the sector”.

“Funding could go towards initiatives like trialling hydrogen cranes to support decarbonisation or even testing low carbon fuels across the industry,” the Department for Transport said.

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