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Willetts details technology funding

Ministers have started sharing out the 600 million gift to "eight great technologies" announced in the Government's Autumn Statement.

Science minister David Willetts has set out details of how most of the money will be spent.

Outlining investments totalling more than 460 million, he highlighted the importance of areas such as computing, space, advanced materials and energy storage.

The largest sum, amounting to 189 million, will go to energy efficient computing and improving the processing of "big data" sets containing huge amounts of information.

This will drive progress in fields as diverse as earth observation and medical science.

Further sums of 25 million will go to the development of new space technology, 35 million to centres specialising in robotics and autonomous systems, 45 million to new facilities for advanced materials research, and 30 million to support energy storage programmes.

In addition, 50 million will be spent on vital upgrades to research equipment and laboratories, and 65 million on world-leading research institutes. A sum of 25 million is earmarked for the Advanced Metrology Laboratory at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex, to boost leading edge measurement science.

Previously, 108 million had already been allocated to regenerative medicine, and 28 million to the National Composites Centre in Bristol.

Speaking at the Policy Exchange think tank in London, Mr Willetts said: "Strong science and flexible markets is a good combination of policies, but it is not enough. It misses out crucial stuff in the middle - real decisions on backing key technologies on their journey from the lab to the marketplace. It is the missing third pillar to any successful high tech strategy.

"It is R&D and technology and engineering as distinct from pure science. It is our historic failure to back this which lies behind the familiar problems of the so-called 'valley of death' between scientific discoveries and commercial applications."

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