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Abstract

Much relevant information is published on the web, and this article aims to give a flavour of what's available, whether you have a particular idea in mind or a general interest in the area. Its focus is on technology and industrial innovation in the UK, and on government and official sources, but I've also included a limited number of relevant international resources as starting points for further research.

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Steve Lee"Innovation -- the commercial exploitation of new or novel ideas -- occupies the ground somewhere between the scientific community and the business world. Examples of existing, or future, innovative products include vehicles powered by fuel cells rather than petrol engines, modelling and simulation technologies that reduce lengthy and expensive product development cycles for businesses, or the application of photonics technology to improve medical diagnosis.

Much relevant information is published on the web, and this article aims to give a flavour of what's available, whether you have a particular idea in mind or a general interest in the area. Its focus is on technology and industrial innovation in the UK, and on government and official sources, but I've also included a limited number of relevant international resources as starting points for further research.

UK government sites

Information on the UK government's Technology Strategy is available via my own department's website <http://digbig.com/4jhcc>. This sets out the focus of support in key areas, and provides information on assistance available via the Technology Programme from other departments and the Research Councils.

The DTIs Global Watch service <http://www.globalwatchservice.com/> helps UK businesses access innovative technologies and working practices from overseas. The site offers information on science and technology around the world (look in the Information section). The Missions area includes a searchable library of reports on topics ranging from Wireless Sensor Networks in the USA to Healthcare Technologies in China. To view the full range of information, you'll need to register (this is free).

DTI also sponsors a number of Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) to promote collaboration, best practice and knowledge sharing between industry and academia in particular areas, including health technologies, grid computing or food processing. Most KTNs have a website (visit <http://digbig.com/4jhce> for the list). Register, for free, to access the content.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme works to transfer knowledge into businesses. Each partnership is partly funded by the government, with the balance of the costs coming from a corporate partner, and employs one or more recently qualified associate for a project lasting one to three years. The KTP website <http://www.ktponline.co.uk/> offers searchable databases of current, recently approved and completed projects, and details of how businesses, individuals and the academic and research sectors can participate in the scheme.

The Foresight programme <http://www.foresight.gov.uk/> identifies potential opportunities for the economy or society from new science and technologies, and considers how they could address key challenges for society. At any given time, Foresight (part of the Office of Science and Innovation) is investigating three or four areas, such as Tackling Obesity, Intelligent Infrastructure Systems and Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases. Reports on these and past projects are available from the site.

Interested in selling your idea overseas, or finding out what's going on in your area abroad? The UK Trade & Investment site <http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/> provides a wide range of information including country and sector profiles, and a substantial database of business information websites; a quick search will reveal much information with a technology or innovation focus. You'll need to register to see everything, but again this is free.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Offices Science and Innovation Network <http://digbig.com/4jhcg> operates in over 20 countries, with the objectives of spreading the word about the high standards of the UK science base, assisting UK companies in accessing overseas science and innovation, facilitating high-tech trade and attracting foreign investment. In support of this mission, the network's site acts as a portal to a range of local and international science, technology and innovation information.

Many other government departments and agencies also publish relevant information on their websites and/or support research into topics of interest. Look for sections with headings like Science, Research and Development, Innovation and Statistics. Specific information varies, but often includes details of departmental priorities, reports, statistics and details of support for research.

UK Parliament

The Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST) <http://digbig.com/4jhck>, the UK Parliament's analysis of science and technology public policy issues, publishes short briefing notes called POSTnotes, and longer reports on current science and technology issues. The Science and Technology Select Committees of the House of Commons <http://digbig.com/4jhch> and the Lords <http://digbig.com/4jhcj> also produce reports and take evidence on technologies and related topics.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

In each of the English regions and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, government agencies or bodies supported by the devolved administrations exist to promote economic development. These bodies work to improve the relative economic performance of their areas, and have strong interests in encouraging and supporting innovation amongst businesses. Their sites give details of strategies and the support available, and link to related local and national websites. In England this role is performed by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs); bodies with similar roles also exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales:

Englands RDAs <http://www.englandsrdas.com/home.aspx>

Invest NI -- Research and Development <http://digbig.com/4jhcm>

Scottish Enterprise -- Ideas and Innovation <http://digbig.com/4ejnh>

Welsh Assembly Government Department of Enterprise, Innovation and Networks <http://digbig.com/4jhcn>

Research councils

The UK's Research Councils are major public investors in fundamental research, with interests ranging from biomedicine and particle physics to the environment, engineering and economic research. Published information varies, but it can be worth checking the site of the relevant body for details of their work and information on grants. Details of all the Research Councils and links to individual sites are available from Research Councils UK <http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/>.

Learned societies and professional bodies

Learned societies and professional bodies are associated with many areas of science and technology in the UK, and often have interests in promoting the exploitation of new ideas from the scientific community. Details are available via the British Council's Guide to the Organisation of Science, Engineering and Technology <http://www.britishcouncil.org/gost/learned.htm> (which also includes a good general introduction to science and technology in the UK), or via the HERO (Higher Education and Research Opportunities in the United Kingdom) site <http://digbig.com/4jhcp>.

Academia

Innovation is, of course, also high on the agenda of universities across the UK -- both in terms of the commercialisation of their own research and of services they can offer business. Individual university sites contain details of the innovation office or centre, as does UNICO (the University Companies Association) <http://www.unico.org.uk/>. This has a list of relevant contacts in, and links to, universities and other bodies.

Technology enablers

Enablers are responsible for the intellectual property, standards, measurement and accreditation that help business innovate. They assist innovation throughout the value chain. For example, the protection of a new idea through a patent or the characterisation of the effects of the product through measurement. They also may help the delivery of products to market in compliance with regulations or reassure customers, and simplified compliance, through accreditation. In the UK, these include the following organisations:

The Patent Office <http://www.patent.gov.uk/> is responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights (patents, designs, trade marks and copyright) in the UK. The site includes information on all these areas and searchable databases of designs, patents and trademarks. In addition to its main site, the Patent Office also maintains the Intellectual Property site <http://www.intellectual-property.gov.uk/>, a user-friendly guide to basic information about IP. The site signposts creators and users of IP so that they can protect their rights or obtain licences for particular uses.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) <http://www.bsi-global.com/index.xalter> is the UK's national standards body, and works with government, business and consumers to represent UK interests and facilitate the production of British, European and international standards.

Custodian of the kilogram, home of the metre and the source of time for the UK, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) <http://www.npl.co.uk/> maintains world-class metrology facilities and offers calibration services with the highest available accuracy.

The National Weights and Measures Laboratory (NWML) <http://www.nwml.gov.uk/Default.aspx> is responsible for ensuring that all trade measurements are accurate, legal and fair to buyer and seller, and helps companies comply with the requirements of European directives.

Formerly the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, the now privatized LGC Ltd., <http://www.lgc.co.uk/index.asp> retains its statutory role as Government Chemist, acting as the referee in cases where there is a dispute over analytical results or their interpretation.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) <http://www.ukas.com/> ensures that the contributions made by other enablers, for example the accuracy of measurements and the implementation of standards, are independently assessed to provide a foundation on which businesses can innovate.

Many of these bodies also have their international equivalents: the European Patent Office, the US Patent and Trademark Office and the International Standards Organisation. Follow the links from the UK sites.

International sources

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) <http://digbig.com/4fapr> publishes an extensive range of information and statistics on diverse subjects, including science, technology and innovation, much of which is freely available. The site holds a great deal of information on a wide range of topics.

The EU publishes a gateway to news and information about scientific research and technological development in the European Union at <http://digbig.com/4jhcq>. The site links to information on current and past research activities and to information on EU funding for research.

CORDIS <http://www.cordis.lu/en/home.html> is the European Commission's information service on European research and innovation activities. The site includes details of projects, funding, contacts (EU and national), links, etc. You might find it useful to view the Guidance <http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=WN_HOME_EN&ACTION=R> to get a taste of what's available here. CORDIS also provides the Articles on Innovation site <http://aoi.cordis.lu/home.cfm>, which includes articles on many aspects of innovation and technology.

Eureka! <http://www.eureka.be/home.do> is a pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D. Founded in 1985, it offers access to knowledge, skills and expertise across Europe, and facilitates access to national public and private funding schemes. The site includes details of projects, plus opportunities for project partners, publications, awards and more.

In the United States, the Technology Administration <http://www.technology.gov/Index.html> is the government agency that promotes technology and industrial innovation. The site also links to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), responsible for the standards and measures needed in the conduct of business; the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which collects and disseminates science and technical information, and the Office of Technology Policy.

The US Office of Science and Technology Policy <http://www.ostp.gov/> serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the US president with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the federal government. The OSTP site provides reports on technologies and their applications, and links to key federal science and technology departments, agencies and commissions.

Innovation is all about the exploitation of new ideas, by definition, a wide-ranging and rapidly developing area. Given the range of information available, this article gives only a very brief taste of the huge range of information published by international bodies, overseas governments and other organisations with an interest in innovation, but I hope it will give a sense of what's available.


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