Perry, CEO of the Centre for Process Information, told Parliament in 2010 that £200 million was “a great start, but I’m not sure it’s’ enough.”121 The Fraunhofers currently receive more than eleven times more core funding from governments than the Catapults will get.122 And the misimpression that doomed the Faraday Centres—that the Fraunhofer model involved primarily private funding—may still surround the Catapult effort.123 It is not clear that public funding of the Fraunhofer proportion, which involves two thirds or more of the operating budget and additional funds for equipment and facilities, will be available to the Catapults in an era of stringent fiscal austerity. The 60 Fraunhofer institutes tend to concentrate on narrower and more focused technology areas than the Catapults will do, recalling comments to the effect that past British efforts at applied research spread too little money over too wide a technological landscape. And, as was frequently observed in the Parliamentary enquiry on Technology and Innovation Centres, many of the features of the German innovation system that facilitate the operation of the Fraunhofer are simply not present in Britain.
At the same time, the Catapult initiative enjoys support from across the political spectrum in Britain, a dynamic that has not always characterized similar initiatives in the past. It is being implemented at a time when the traditionally distant relationship between the British research community and industry is improving. The Catapults are being formed by incorporating some of the best existing applied research institutes in the world, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield. While the Catapult project is modest in scale compared with the Fraunhofer, it is reasonable to expect that it will improve the competitiveness of British industry across a relatively broad front and may enable the United Kingdom to retain a competitive edge in a few areas in which it already leads.
121Perry commented that “we’ve done a lot of benchmarking across Europe with CPI, and what we see is that the average institute across Europe has about ‡25 million or £25 million, and about 200 people. You’ve been to see the Fraunhofers. There are 59 there and that is the average size of those 59. If you look at the £200 million, we mustn’t forget that in the one third, one third, one third model, that should, with time, grow to have the economic impact of around £600 million effectively,. On that scale, I think it’s a great start, but it has some way to go yet.” House of Commons, Science, and Technology Committee, Technical and Innovation Centres enquiry. Oral evidence. December 20, 2010. Q69 Ev. 19
122The Fraunhofer s received the equivalent of £447 million in core government funds in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, whereas the Catapult program will receive 40 million per year in comparable funding.
123In October 2011, the British engineering publication Professional Engineering made the statement “In Germany, about 70 percent of the research work carried out by the Fraunhofers is funded by business.” Professional Engineering. 2011. “Technology and Innovation Centres will Stimulate Rebalancing of the Economy.” October 12.