Skip to content

Digital Catapult Anniversary: A decade of strategic technology innovation and economic stimulus

Posted 28 Nov 2023

Digital Catapult celebrates its ten year anniversary

Today, Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, proudly celebrates its ten-year anniversary, marking a decade of stimulus and impact in sectors such as telecoms, defence and the creative industries, fostering innovation, developing new industrial sectors and driving early adoption across the UK.

Founded in 2013, the Catapult has consistently signposted areas of opportunity offered by new technologies and created strategic programmes and facilities to enable UK companies to be successful early adopters. Over the last 5 years alone, Digital Catapult has helped 174 startups to raise £555 million, engaged with nearly 3,000 companies, and delivered 303 projects and programmes.  Since its inception, Digital Catapult has opened 20 facilities across the country and quintupled its headcount from 50 in 2013 to over 250 this year. The amount of private investment raised by companies who have worked with Digital Catapult over the last 10 years is around £4bn. 

Digital Catapult has identified three major areas of applied technology where the UK has an opportunity for global leadership. These cross-sector application areas combine advanced digital technologies like 5G and AI to generate tangible benefits in the real world. They are in digital infrastructure, virtual environments and in digital supply chains. Across these three areas, Digital Catapult is driving over £270m worth of major collaborative R&D and commercial programmes, which are helping hundreds of companies to be successful early adopters, increasing interoperability between their products, reducing carbon emissions and demonstrating the market value of new approaches. 

The innovation agency has facilitated pioneering collaborations between industry players including Sainsburys, Niantic, Ericsson,  BAE Systems, P&G, Sony Music, SoundCloud, Rolls Royce, Seagate, Sellafield and many more. It has accelerated the success of hundreds of ground breaking startups including Flexciton, GreyParrot, Carbon Re, ToffeeAM, and Gravity Sketch.

Digital Catapult has grown its presence across the country with the opening of a Northern Ireland centre in 2016 and the subsequent launch of the Smart Nano Manufacturing programme, funded by UKRI’s Strength in Places fund, the launch of the £8 million PROTO studio funded by Gateshead City Council, and in 2022 the MyWorld programme launched with the goal to boost the UK economy by £223 million, with creative technology development focused on the West of England. 

Commenting on the ten-year anniversary, Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, said, “Reaching our ten-year milestone is a testament to the talent, expertise and vision of an amazing team.  I am immensely proud of the impact we are making in a range of emerging industrial sectors such as open networking  in telecoms,  immersive media and quantum. There is still so much more to do.   As we look to the future and the increasing challenges of climate change, we will continue to drive innovation, foster collaboration, increase investor confidence to support the growth of the UK economy and help ensure that the digital transition is also a green transition .”


Immersive Sector Development:

Dimension Studio, opened in 2017, was the first commercial volumetric capture studio outside the US and provided a vision for a thriving UK immersive sector. This was followed by an ongoing collaboration with Andy Serkis’ Imaginarium Studios,  pioneering performer-led motion capture. 2 years later, CreativeXR, developed in collaboration with Arts Council England, was a first-of-its-kind programme helping 60 companies prototype new formats and immersive experiences. It paved the way for the launch, this year, of the UK’s first £10m network of Advanced Media Production Studios, funded by InnovateUK, operated by Target3D. 

The network links London to Gateshead with state of the art 5G connectivity. This work laid the groundwork for the recently launched £75m CoStar programme funded by the UKRI Infrastructure Fund via AHRC – the single largest public investment into the creative industries. We are proud that all our strategic activity  has led to the emergence of a thriving immersive ecosystem of over 2,000  new companies drawn from previously fragmented expertise in UK film, tv, games and VFX, which we continue to support. 

Telecoms Development:

The £15m SONIC Labs programme, in partnership with Ofcom and funded by DSIT,  started the journey to accelerate growth of the UK’s open network ecosystem and diversify the telecommunication supply market. Led by visionary engineer Dr Dritan Kaleshi, the team at Digital Catapult has expanded from 4 to 70 over the last 7 years, playing a key role in the development of UKTIN – a forum fostering collaboration among industry, government, and academia to catalyse R&D investment, cooperation and commercialisation in the UK telecoms innovation ecosystem. 

In Telecoms, Digital Catapult has become known for its expertise in and advocacy for 5G and beyond, into 6G and open networking. This year the 14th 5G test bed across the UK launched, driving industrial adoption of this vital technology into manufacturing and production processes, which complements other emerging technologies that are leveraged in the flagship Digital Supply Chain Hub programme, which looks to make supply chains more efficient, resilient and sustainable. 

AI Development:

In the vibrant AI space, our Machine Intelligence Garage, programme funded by an ERDF grant and launched in 2018, was one of the first accelerator programmes in the world  to prioritise AI ethics and responsible innovation amongst AI startups. It  laid the foundations for Innovate UK’s £100 million BridgeAI programme, which Digital Catapult is delivering in partnership with the Hartree Foundation and the Alan Turing Institute.