The government has announced its Innovation Strategy, an effort that will pump £22bn into R&D and create conditions for private sector investment into innovation.
Launched today (July 22, 2021) by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the Innovation Strategy is the government’s long-term vision to put innovation at the heart of ‘building back better’. Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have been tasked with putting the Strategy into operation.
The UK will increase annual public investment on R&D to £22bn, but BEIS state that the private sector will have a key role in boosting spending on R&D to target domestic priorities including tackling climate change and boosting productivity.
“With businesses responsible for the majority of innovation and R&D done in the UK it is welcome, and somewhat refreshing, to have a strategy so focused on the objective of boosting innovation by private sector firms,” commented Prof Sir Jim McDonald FREng, President, RAEng. “With pressures on public finances, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, and growing global competition, supporting businesses to manage the risks associated with R&D and encourage innovation is a way of securing our future growth and reaping the returns from our investment in research.
According to BEIS, the strategy takes lessons learned from the pandemic, including from the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, and will apply them find solutions to challenges facing the UK, including the relative decline in business R&D investment, skills gaps and the need for pro-enterprise regulatory environment.
BEIS add that government will ‘specify ‘innovation missions’ that set clear direction, urgency and pace on the issues confronting the UK that can be tackled with the private sector.’ These will be determined by the new National Science and Technology Council and supported by the Office for Science and Technology Strategy.
The government is also outlining seven strategic technologies to prioritise and build on existing R&D strengths, including clean technologies, robotics, genomics and AI.
In a statement, business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.
“Through this long-term plan, we want to rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery, helping businesses to seize the vast opportunities that innovation can bring.
“If we get this right, we can build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow, and ensure British firms are at the front of the pack to turn world-leading science into new products and services that are successful in international markets.”
Advanced materials and manufacturing; AI, digital and advanced computing; bioinformatics and genomics; engineering biology; electronics, photonics and quantum; energy and environment technologies; robotics and smart machines are identified by government as areas in which the UK has globally competitive R&D and industrial strength.
As part of efforts to ensure innovative business across the UK can capitalise on these strengths, five projects will receive a share of £127m through the Strength in Places Fund, delivered by UKRI. Of these, £22.6m will help the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Initiative in northern England to drive innovation for the UK’s advanced machinery manufacturers.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “At the Manufacturing Technology Centre, we know that early investment in tomorrow’s skills, processes and technologies is critical to future-proofing the country’s economy, and empowering us to compete and trade internationally.
“To realise the strategy’s full potential, and to support our best innovators’ ideas, the UK will need accommodating policies that encourage inventors and researchers to be bold, and which fuel investment in research.
“The government’s commitment to increasing public investment in R&D to a record £22bn will play a key part in this, but its proposed changes in how we support and develop transformational technology through education, regulation and procurement will also be vital.”
Innovation Strategy 10-point plan:
- ensure government procurement is proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
- consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
- commission the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including looking whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation
- introduce new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, and revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent
- undertake an independent review to assess landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
- reduce complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank within the next 12 months
- expand IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services to bolster innovative companies’ and researchers’ ability to confidently collaborate, export and invest overseas
- publish of a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish
- invest £200m through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to target the growth-stage funding gap faced by UK life science companies
- support 30,000 senior managers of small and medium sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth