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£186 million investment in technologies of the future

The Government has announced a package of investment in the "eight great technologies of the future" involving universities in key initiatives to drive forward advances.

Universities and Science minister David Willetts said the funding would help the UK tackle "some of the greatest challenges of our time" including climate change, energy storage, food production and population growth.

The biggest investment, at £70 million, will be into Agri-Tech Catalyst, which aims to help new agricultural technologies bridge the so-called "valley of death" between the lab and the marketplace. Delivered by the Technology Strategy Board in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, funding will be provided for academics and SMEs to develop solutions to agri-tech challanges.

Another £44 million has been earmarked for two projects to monitor crucial ocean currents in the North Atlantic, part coordinated by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Some £34 million of an overall £64 million investment will involve seven UK universities in a network to give social policy researchers unprecedented access to data such as medical, educational and benefits records.

Set up by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the idea behind the new Administrative Data Research Network is to mine and "demystify" the mass of routinely collected material - suitably anonymised - to inform social policy debate. The universities of Essex, Southampton, Edinburgh, Swansea, Manchester, Oxford and Queens in Belfast are taking the work forward in three phases.

ESRC Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle, said: "There is the potential for a revolution in our ability to answer a host of questions that were previously intractable."

A further £15 million will support King’s College London to create a Research and Innovation Hub within the new Cancer Centre at Guy’s Hospital; £10 million for the University of Glasgow to create a new Clinical Research Facility and imaging suite at South Glasgow Hospitals Campus; £10 million for the University of Southampton to build new engineering research facilities and infrastructure; and £3.5 million for business-led projects to develop innovative tools and services like gene sequencing, for the UK synthetic biology industry.