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Observers have struggled to find anything useful to the British IT industry out of Wednesday's Queen's Speech, where the government presents (via the mouthpiece of the monarch) its agenda of business for the next 12 months. The BBC's technology editor, Rory Cellan-Jones, jokingly commented on Twitter, "'RT @robindbrant: it appears [opposition leader Ed Milliband] and [Prime Minister David Cameron] were discussing iPads as they walked into lords for queens speech.' At last a tech angle!'"
Cellan-Jones and others may just have been looking in the wrong part of U.K. government for tech news. The Department of Energy and Climate Change announced Wednesday a new £21 million ($33 million) seed fund to help British entrepreneurs bring "new and innovative low-carbon products to market."
The prize will be split into a set of competitions and direct subsidy programs. The overriding goal is to spur more innovation in the low-carbon sector and support jobs, create export opportunities and help the U.K. meet its carbon targets.
"This new investment will give these organizations the boost they need to drive forward the development of a range of innovative low-carbon designs, helping cut costs and bring new technologies to market in this sector," said the Energy and Climate Change minister, Greg Barker.
[ Get more U.K. government IT news. Read U.K. Government Mandates Cloud First IT Procurement. ]
The Energy Entrepreneurs Fund will divide £16 million ($25 million) worth of that £21 million among some 30 projects. The plan is support firms who have come forward with "promising contributions" in energy efficiency technologies such as building control systems, advanced lighting systems and space heating and cooling technologies, alongside power generation and energy storage technologies including fuel cells, biomass boilers and heat pumps. The department says potential products range from new smart energy demand controls and innovative waste management solutions to new approaches to insulation.
Sixteen firms have been awarded a share of £2 million ($3.1 million) to help develop new energy storage solutions, which store electricity generated at a time of low demand that can be used a later time when demand is higher. That offers promise for data centers -- but, warned the government, these ideas need more funding to "help drive forward innovation and encourage private sector investment."
Rounding out the investment is a £3 million ($4.7 million) boost for entrepreneurs willing to carry out feasibility studies and demonstrate designs for new compact heat stores in the domestic sector.
Companies named include University of Warwick spin-off Anvil Semiconductors, which is looking at alternatives to silicon as the basis for power semiconductors in applications including Smart Grids, and PhotonStar, a British designer of smart LED lighting solutions.
At the policy level, last year the U.K. government identified heat pumps, heat networks and heat storage as three key technologies that could play a key role in the country's possible low-carbon future and potentially slash national energy system costs by anywhere from £14 billion ($22 billion) to £66 billion ($102 billion) by 2050.
Our 2013 IT Spending Priorities Survey shows IT pros are playing catch-up after a period of underfunding. Also in the new, all-digital Vicious Circle issue of InformationWeek: Twitter's security boost might be too little, too late. (Free registration required.)