What is an IKC?

Innovation and Knowledge Centres are a key component of the UK’s approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies.

Each IKC aims to create early stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology. Based in universities, they are led by expert entrepreneurial teams. The centres possess international quality research capability and access to the technologies needed to make commercially viable product, process or service systems work.

As well as enabling advances in research, an IKC’s primary goal is to enhance the wealth generation of businesses with which it interacts. Technologies targeted by the IKCs will have viable and feasible routes to commercialisation which the IKC can support through an approach that reduces cost and failure at a later stage.

Seven Innovation and Knowledge Centres have been set up since 2007.

IKC funding

IKCs are funded by two of the UK’s Research Councils – the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – and Innovate UK. In its first phase, 2009-15, the Medical Technologies IKC received £10 million in funding which supported our Proof of Concept funding programme and growing our industry partnerships through co-development projects.

In our second phase of operation, the Medical Technologies IKC was funded by the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. We continued to build on our Proof of Concept pipeline and expanding our knowledge base to provide more effective national coverage.  We also used the innovation processes we developed and tested to date to extend our reach, developing and securing funding for new approaches to increasing translational capability and growing capacity in medtech innovation.
Since 2009, we have generated and leveraged a further £170 million in research and innovation funding, including more than £27 million from industry.

Entering our third phase in 2021 we are diversifying our emergent technology inputs to address an increasing the number of market segments and a greater proportion of the £450bn global market by 2025.

As a result of the de-risking strategies we’ve been able to implement, private industry has invested over £150 million into the technologies we have supported, in relation to product development, evaluation and manufacturing.

Bridging the Valley of Death

The successful launch of a new medical technology product or service depends on successful progression through an innovation pathway – from identifying a need through to product launch.

Our experience has shown that companies focus on projects with shorter term returns at higher Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). As such the gap between fundamental research and industrial investment is widening – we aim to help bridge that gap.

We do this by de-risking technologies and accelerating their development. Our Proof of Concept funding programme, industry partnerships in the form of co-development projects and industry-funded applied research, means researchers can prove the robustness of their technologies.

The success of this approach is evident in the uptake of technologies emerging from the Medical Technologies IKC and described in our case studies.