Connectivity Empowers the Arc
Connectivity is imperative in driving growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
Typically, we’d express this as the physical and digital connections and infrastructure between people and place, to enable the transfer of knowledge across the regional network.
Connectivity can also encompass the strength of relationships between sectors, bringing together entrepreneurs and innovators with decision-makers across local authorities and the UK government. Broadening our understanding and appreciation of the power of connections to enhance our infrastructure ambitions is paramount if we are to unlock the collective benefits that a supercharged Arc can bring us all, as an engine for UK plc, a magnet for investment, job creation, job growth, and global representation on the world stage.
The valuable lessons learnt from previous successful development in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and across the UK is that collaboration through high-quality connections between stakeholders is the best way to efficiently grow an ecosystem. Accelerators and incubators can act as the crucial bridge between small innovative entrepreneurs and researchers in the connective capital sector, and organisations like the Department for Transport that have the funding and strategic ability to translate ideas into practice.
Connected Places Catapult is one such point of connection between innovators, academia, industry and the government. As the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and places, the Catapult builds on its links to UKRI and Innovate UK to provide impartial advice to businesses and place leaders, including local authorities and UK Government. The Catapult also works at a global scale: supporting the entry of UK business into emerging innovation markets around the world.
Connected Places Catapult provides impartial ‘innovation as a service’ for public bodies, businesses, and infrastructure providers to catalyse step-change improvements in the way people live, work and travel, by:
- Improving physical connectivity – increasing the stock of physical infrastructure, connecting places through the innovative use of new materials and engineering through new roads, bridges, and improvements in the rail network and utilities infrastructure.
- Improving social connectivity – utilising innovation in urban design and placemaking to build genuine communities, improving social cohesion across new and existing developments.
- Improving digital connectivity – using advances in telecommunications technology, internet-connected sensors, and ubiquitous big data to build smarter cities, infrastructure and governance systems.
Connected Places Catapult works across academia and the public and private sectors, including the Department for Transport to prepare the UK’s airports and airfields for zero-emission flight infrastructure, creating dialogue and solutions for the future use of hydrogen and battery powered aircraft. The Transport Research and Innovation Grant: Zero Emission Flight competition funded 15 projects with £50,000 of initial seed funding in 2021. Winners were sourced from across academia, including three from Cranfield University, and private sector start-ups. The funding and business support received by these projects is part of the focus of organisations like the Catapult in commercialising academic and private research across the UK, providing sustainability solutions to help the UK reach net zero while building economic and jobs growth.
Connected Places Catapult works to match government agencies with innovative SMEs across the UK in physical infrastructure initiatives, such as the decarbonisation of rail freight infrastructure and the creation of zero emissions air infrastructure. An innovative project working alongside private sector enterprises and Cranfield University aims to meet the aims of UKRI’s Airspace of the Future project, looking to seamlessly integrate drones into the existing airspace system of the UK.