Friday, 5 December 2014


Am attending a session at on Catapults.  I have learned a bit on what they do.

  1. They are prevented by state aid rules from offering aid to firms.  
  2. So, they identify areas that the UK might be good at and where markets will be substantial.  They then set up a network in that area and invite companies etc. to come and participate in that network.  So for example, a small firm who would want to get finance from a Euro research grant would join that network and make an application through the network.  Or, there might be money from InnovateUK, the past TSB, that could be applied for.
Some thoughts.
  1. To get this working they have to identify some technologies to get into and some to not.  That very hazardous.  So they try to keep things general e.g. setting up a platform in exchanging information.  Nonetheless, it does mean they have to guess what technologies will be big and we will be good at.   In 1967  Sir Donald Gibson, Director of R&D at the Ministry of Public Building and Works, suggested a new airport made of expanded polystyrene floating on the mud flats of the Thames.  Passengers would travel to this remarkable construction by hovercraft.  I see there is not catapult centre on floating polystyrene airports. How do we know that is not going to be winning technology?
  2. The constraint they cannot offer aid is important. in answer to the question, what can you do for a small firm they cannot do themselves, it is not that they can get money. It is that they can help the small firm join the network and then stand a chance of getting money which would otherwise be too complicated to get hold of.  In that case, it would be better to simplify the process.  


  1. Thank you for the interesting post very much. It is impressive to know that small firms can get so much network and funding support by org. like Catapults. Could you please share more thoughts on the necessity/importance to support small firms in innovation? Spill over of innovation should probably mean more than innovation itself from the perspective of the economy as a whole. However, compared with large firms, small firms have really limited abilities in creating/getting benefited from spill over effect. It is even more difficult (just as you say in the post) to determine which technology to support/what UK potentially needs. Thus why bother putting so much efforts on small firms? Why not go for a more efficient path by focusing on those big players? After all it is those big firms that change the world--at least this is what non-economists see happening.