Science superstars and small businesses could bring the next big innovations to market with £100 million boost

  • From Southampton to Edinburgh, projects will help tackle climate change, chronic diseases and barriers to driverless cars
  • Investment will support industries of the future to thrive, boost jobs and grow local economies

The rising stars of UK science and trailblazing small businesses will receive significant government support to help answer some of the world’s biggest scientific challenges and help turn ideas into viable products and services.

This week, the Government announced a £98 million investment, allowing both UK researchers and small businesses to seize the vast opportunities in science and innovation and industries of the future.

Of this, £78 million will be invested in 78 scientists and researchers through the government’s Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, supporting many of those working at the cutting edge of the next scientific discoveries – including solutions to climate change and birth defects.

The remaining £20 million will be allocated to 20 universities to develop new University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) across the country to provide vital specialist support to small businesses in pioneering industries – like Artificial Intelligence (AI), clean growth, smart energy and agri-food.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said:

Delivering on our research and innovation ambitions means putting people first, whether they are just starting out in their career or are leading major projects in academia or industry.

These inspirational Future Leaders Fellows will generate the ideas of the future, helping to shape science and research for the 21st century. But to realise the full potential of these discoveries, their ideas need to be taken out of the lab and turned into real products and services, where they can actually change people’s lives for the better.

That’s why we are creating 20 new University Enterprise Zones, helping local start-ups to co-locate in universities to build the businesses of the future – all inspired by university research.

The first wave of winners of the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme was announced earlier this year – with several projects now underway, ranging from tackling Alzheimer’s disease to helping emergency services reach the scenes of accidents more quickly.

The new fellows will help maintain the UK’s position as a global science and research superpower, with new fellows including:

  • Joe Rainger, University of Edinburgh – Working with DNA, live cell-imaging, and developing eye tissue, Joe’s project will provide insights into how we can reduce genetic birth defects – including cleft palate, spina bifida, and heart defects
  • Siddartha Khastgir, WMG, University of Warwick- Siddartha’s research will help us overcome the barriers to rolling out driverless cars – running pioneering tests to enable the safe use of connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs)
  • Izzy Jayasinghe, University of Leeds- Izzy will build new portable, cheap and easy-to-use imaging technology. This will help doctors and scientists to visually examine structures as small as individual proteins and genes – unlocking new insights into global issues including effects of environmental change, ageing and long-term disease
  • Adrian Healy, Cardiff University – Adrian’s research will improve global cities’ ability to cope with water-related shocks in the face of increasing demands for water, including droughts and a lack of access clean to water
  • Bob C. Schroeder, University College London – This project will drive advances in self-healing materials – creating a wearable sensor that can be directly applied to human skin to allow for continuous patient monitoring and ultimately improve treatments
  • Patricia Clay, University of Manchester – By examining meteorites and ancient rocks from our planet, this project will explore the age-old existential question: how did life form on early Earth?
  • Sadie Watson, Museum of London Archaeology – Sadie’s research will ensure that public spending on archaeological excavation for infrastructure projects leads to meaningful research that is relevant to society – and has community participation

The remaining £20 million is being allocated by Research England – part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – to 20 universities, from Southampton to Teesside to create UEZs; alongside existing zones in Bradford, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham, and a specialised facility at the Bradfield Centre in Cambridge

These UEZs will provide vital specialist support to small businesses at the cutting-edge of pioneering industries.

The scheme will facilitate knowledge sharing between academics and entrepreneurs by opening collaborations with universities and businesses to help them take their ideas from prototype to profit. The UEZs will provide the facilities and expertise to help local SMEs to forge crucial partnerships, driving local growth and job creation.

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