The case for the Catapult

Posted on 28 Aug 2013 by The Manufacturer

Rob Saunders, head of energy at the Technology Strategy Board explains the requirement for the newly announced Energy Systems Catapult

Catapult update

Business Secretary Vince cable announced plans for the Energy Systems Catapult in mid-August. In the same announcement he revealed that a Catapult centre dedicated to Diagnostics for Stratified Medicine would also be launched and that the existing High Value Manufacturing Catapult has been awarded £7m of additional funding.

To read more about the announcement click here.

To read more about the future of the Catapult network and how the £7m for the HVM Catapult centres will be spent, click here.

The decision to establish an Energy Systems Catapult is a pertinent response to a clear need.

The Catapult’s are designed to help turn ideas into reality, bridging the gap between concept and commercialisation by bringing a critical mass of activity and expertise to particular sectors.  They are long-term strategic investments for effective innovation that will benefit the whole economy as well as individual firms.

As the energy system changes over the coming decades in order to deliver affordable, secure and low carbon energy, the integration and control of new energy systems will become a critical new market in the UK and abroad.

These systems will be more complex due to greater contribution from a bigger variety of renewables which will mean managing more variable supply patterns. There will also be new demand services around electric vehicle charging and electrification of heat, for example, which will make balancing supply and demand challenging.

A worthwhile investment 

Rob Saunders, head of energy at the Technology Strategy Board

It is worth our while to lead the field in overcoming these challenges. The future market for energy networks and storage alone is estimated at £1.6tr to 2050.  We want UK companies to be able to access these markets and this Catapult will help them to do so.

The UK has a burgeoning SME base in smart energy solutions and system integration & control is a key area of expertise. But TSB knows from its own energy programme that there are numerous small businesses with groundbreaking smart power technology ideas who often struggle to commercialise their technologies. It is difficult to understand the role and impact of new technologies in a complex system, and it’s challenging to get radical technologies proven in a regulated asset-base

The Catapult will provide a place for innovative UK companies to go to for help to overcome these issues, perhaps through leveraging system modelling and simulation, enabling testing and providing links to critical regulatory bodies such as Ofgem and Government.

While the Catapult will focus on helping SMEs bring new products to this emerging market it will seek out work with larger businesses such as Siemens and Alstom to help join up the supply chain and heavy energy users like Network Rail to develop understanding of future demand patterns. Collaboration with the existing UK and international research base in this sector will be essential.

TSB has identified key pools of existing academic expertise in UK universities including Imperial, Cardiff, Manchester, Nottingham and Stathclyde, and the Catapult will try to bring these institutions on board with its challenge to commercialise their research through partnership with industry. Of course the Energy Systems Catapult will look also to capitalise on obvious synergies with the existing Catapults for offshore renewable energy, future cities, transport systems and connected digital economy.

The next steps are broad industry consultation to develop the detailed scope for this centre, then the recruitment of the right team in place to make it happen. TSB aims for the centre to be operational in 2015.

Container cargo exports ship by JimThe Manufacturer is hosting two events in London on October 16 to assist companies to innovate and increase exports.

Export Connect is the launch event in The Manufacturer magazine’s Accelerated Growth Series, new for 2013. – See more at:

The Innovation in Manufacturing conference is part of The Manufacturer’s Future Factory series and will provide delegates with the knowledge and expertise they need to nurture innovation in the workplace and find more efficient ways of developing new, more sophisticated products. – See more at: