The cost of all this innovation

Is industry in danger of doing a bit of a bank job given this spending spree we're witnessing? Everyone agrees innovation is a good thing, but who exactly is paying for all this rejuvenation? It certainly isn't free.

Are we putting it on the slate and we'll, erm, sort it out later? Are we, as an industry, trying to convince ourselves that all this stuff pays for itself? Are we heading for the same cliff as the banking sector so spectacularly threw itself off?

My goodness it must be coming into winter with such a bleak view point. So let's stop there and answer all these concerns with a simple, no. No we are not. And here's why.

Innovation costs money, but certain areas – not least materials of one kind or another – are the equivalent modern day gold rush. Every industrialised nation capable of doing so is upping the innovation ante. China, the US, Brazil, India, Russia, and not least the rest of Europe, are all putting huge amounts of money into developing technology of one kind or another that will add value.

Strange as it might seem, everyone has woken up to the fact that you actually need to design and build stuff to sell to other countries, to bring value inwards. All this banking and financial jiggery pokery, or gambling as many call it, has been the best bet when it comes to steady and predictable economic growth and prosperity.

The recently rebranded Technology Strategy Board, now Innovate UK, felt so strongly about getting more innovation happening that it's changed its name and entire brand to reflect this core and fundamental aim. It is strategically targeting areas of great opportunity and where the UK is well placed to act.

But many feel that actually we are still not doing enough. That these pots of money are small fry compared to the potential staring us in the face. The carbon fibre supply chain is likely to come under pressure in coming years that could leave our growing composites sector priced up and out of the market.

In the winter issue of Engineering Materials, Dr Andrew Walker from the University of Manchester spoke passionately to me about his vision for the UK to actually start producing, in volume, carbon fibre - protecting UK industry and offering the the potential to lead Europe as a carbon fibre supplier. Read: Is the carbon fibre supply chain unravelling?

It is a bold move, but like all this investment currently going on, it is rejuvenating the great UK industry we knew was there all along. We are back, full of passion and ready to lead the world again in innovation, ideas, and getting things done.

Justin Cunningham

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