Read the full report here: Catapult Network Review

Innovation is critical to the long-term success of any national economy and the UK has a globally renowned reputation for being a leader in this field. However, to be successful and remain successful, innovation requires relentless pursuit through many forms.

One of these forms is having the ability to bridge the gap between R&D and industry, ensuring that there is a ‘translational infrastructure’ that allows our most innovative ideas to be commercialised and drive benefit to the UK economy.

The Catapult network seeks to bridge this gap, working closely with academia, the research industry and the public and private sectors. The Catapults are distinct from other forms of innovation in that they are intended to address specific market failures and enable risks to be taken that would not ordinarily be undertaken by the commercial market. Therefore, Catapults can potentially lead to innovation that benefits the wider economy and that would not otherwise have been delivered.

In our report, we have reviewed the Catapults’ performance to date, noting both the successes and areas where improvements are required to put them on a trajectory that maximises the benefits of innovation to the UK economy.

It is inherently challenging for any organisation to measure the return on innovation spend and, as is the case with the Catapults, within a period of five years. It is important, therefore, to strike a balance between providing sufficient structure, process and governance to provide assurance that publicly-funded innovation is delivering value

for money for UK plc, whilst not providing so much control that innovation is constrained and Catapults feel unable to take measured, calculated and properly understood risk.

During our review of the Catapults, we have had the opportunity to visit their physical locations, and engage with chairs, CEOs and their leadership teams, sector experts, customers and collaborators. We find it reassuring to see high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to ensure the success of Catapults, which has also been exemplified through numerous case studies. We also take note of how the Catapult programme has inspired international initiatives, such as the French ‘Boosters’.

Our recommendations focus on areas around overall governance, strategy and future plans, how performance should be managed, the funding considerations and the need to deliver and measure economic impact through addressing market failures. This is underpinned by recommendations we make for a high-level operating model that Catapults should adopt going forward.

A ‘translational infrastructure’ is a critical component of the UK’s innovation portfolio and should not be treated or viewed in isolation. If the Catapults are to effectively fulfil this role then we consider the recommendations made in our report to be vital to strengthening their performance.

Ernst & Young LLP

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