What is an IKC?
Seven Innovation and Knowledge Centres have been set up across the UK since 2007 and they are a key component of the UK’s approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies.
Each IKC aims to create early stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology. Based in universities, they are led by expert entrepreneurial teams. The centres possess international quality research capability and access to the technologies needed to make commercially viable product, process or service systems work.
As well as enabling advances in research, an IKC’s primary goal is to enhance the wealth generation of businesses with which it interacts. Technologies targeted by the IKCs will have viable and feasible routes to commercialisation which the IKC can support through an approach that reduces cost and failure at a later stage.
IKCs are funded by two of the UK’s Research Councils, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board). For the first five years, the Medical Technologies IKC received £10 million in funding, from which it generated and leveraged a further £95 million in research and innovation funding, including more than £12 million from industry. As a result of the de-risking strategies we’ve been able to implement, private industry has invested a further £57 million in product development.
As we enter the second phase of operation, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, we are looking to build on our Proof of Concept pipeline and expand our knowledge base to provide more effective national coverage.
Bridging the Valley of Death
The successful launch of a new medical technology product or service depends on successful progression through an innovation pathway – from identifying a need through to product launch. Our experience has shown that companies are focussing on projects with shorter term returns at higher Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). As such the gap between fundamental research and industrial investment is widening – we aim to help bridge that gap.
We do this by de-risking technologies and accelerating their development. Our Proof of Concept funding programme, as well as industry partnerships in the form of co-development projects and industry-funded applied research, means researchers can prove the robustness of their technologies. The success of this approach is already evident in the uptake of technologies emerging from the Medical Technologies IKC.