News & Analysis

Plans to boost clean aviation and marine tech announced

27th November 2023
Sheryl Miles

At the Global Investment Summit, the Science and Technology Secretary announced new plans for the safe, proportionate regulation of high-potential technologies such as clean aviation and drones.

These plans also include a boost to the Government’s investor partnership programme for high potential UK science and tech businesses.

New regulatory sandboxes and testbeds

Following the announcement of new regulatory sandboxes at the Autumn Statement, three additional sandboxes and testbeds have been introduced. These will support UK firms and researchers in developing hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel for aviation, exploring the use of drones in passenger transport and deliveries, and advancing self-piloting marine technology. These environments will allow innovators and regulators to work together to safely test new technologies. This flexible approach to regulation aims to reduce barriers for innovators and improve decision-making processes for regulators.

Investment in UK R&D and business scaling

The Government’s ambition to increase investment in UK R&D is advancing with the addition of 29 new partners to the Investor Partnerships programme. Previous programmes have generated over £370 million in private partner backing. DSIT, through Innovate UK, is investing over £110 million alongside private investors to drive investment into scaling-up UK businesses. These businesses are employing transformative technologies to address global challenges, from climate change to healthcare.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said: “From the steam engine and Jenner’s first vaccine, through to modern computers and the wonder-material graphene, brilliant British ideas have and continue to change the world. The untold story behind each of these breakthroughs is that of the investors, whose backing enabled genius ideas to spring to life out of the lab, and into the world.

“We know that unlocking investment is critical if we are to seize the potential for science and tech breakthroughs to create new jobs and industries, grow the economy, and tackle problems from health to energy. That is precisely why we are deepening our links with private investors to help UK businesses scale-up, deepening the UK’s skills base, and working with the sector to build proportionate regulations that encourage innovation, and keep people safe.”

The Summit is showcasing pioneering companies across the UK, ranging from global giants like Alphabet and Arm to newer businesses like Oxford Quantum Circuits and Delta-G, a spin-out from Birmingham University. The expansion of the Innovate UK Investor Partnership Programme, working with investors such as Amadeus Capital and Anglo-American, aims to connect innovative UK SMEs with investors to support business growth. The 15 investor partnership programmes from 2017 to 2022 unlocked significant funding and investment for UK SMEs.

Balancing regulation and innovation

The Government is utilising regulatory sandboxes to capitalise on the potential of frontier technologies like AI, aiming to create new industries and jobs. It seeks to find a balance with regulation that stimulates demand for science and technology while attracting investment, upholding UK values, and safeguarding citizens.

This follows the announcement of the Automated Vehicles Bill in the King’s Speech, which focuses on safety in the roll-out of self-driving vehicle technology. This bill aims to position the UK as a leader in a £42 billion industry.

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