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New Innovation Strategy starts a conversation on how to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035

The Government’s new Innovation Strategy identifies the challenges facing the UK’s innovation landscape before setting out four key pillars to drive a conversation aiming to boost the UK’s innovative capacity.

The Government’s awaited Innovation Strategy: Leading the future by creating builds on the Plan for Growth and begins a conversation with businesses on how to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035.  

What is innovation and why is it important

The Strategy starts by defining what the Government views as innovation which is ‘the creation and application of new knowledge to improve the world’. 

The Strategy also sets out what the Government sees as the societal benefits of innovation seeing Innovation as vital for economic growth, increased productivity and creating more and better- paid jobs. Further it sees innovation as vital for allowing businesses to grow and improving the UK’s competitiveness. 

However, despite these benefits the Strategy identifies a trend across the Western world of slowing innovation highlighting the slowing rate of growth in R&D spending in the UK and the growing cost of innovation itself with the cost of every new drug having doubled every nine years since 1950, while the number of researchers required today to achieve the a doubling of computer chip density is more than 18 times larger than in the early 1970s’. 

Tackling these barriers and reversing the slowdown in innovation is the Strategy’s central aim and it points to key metrics it wants to shift including international leader boards such as the Global Innovation Index, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey and OECD cross country data covering innovation activity. 

The four pillars 

The analysis presented at the start of the strategy is strong and the selection of key indicators which the Government wants to shift provides clarity on their aims.  

To make the strategy a success the Government has selected four pillars of action:  

  1. Unleashing Business – supporting businesses who want to innovate.  
  2. People – attracting the world’s best innovation talent to the UK.  
  3. Institutions & Places – ensuring innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK to spread prosperity.  
  4. Missions & Technologies – stimulating innovation to tackle the major challenges faced by the UK and increase the UK’s capabilities in strategic technologies  

The pillars themselves pull together existing Government announcements and strategies such as the competition reforms announced by DCMS and BEIS and the Government’s plans for a forthcoming Digital Strategy and AI Strategy.  

The Innovation Strategy also makes new announcements of particular interest to techUK members will be:  

  • A new  consultation on how regulation can support innovation and the announcement that BEIS has commissioned the Regulatory Horizon Council to look at how regulation can support innovation, including examining whether a high level guiding principles to support innovation could be applied broadly across the economy, something techUK has called for. 
  • The Government will come forward with Sector Visions targeting sectors and sub-sectors with high-growth potential, where we are well-placed to capture and develop a meaningful share of the global market and be genuinely world leading.  
  • A commitment to employ public procurement to stimulate innovation. 
  • The announcement of a forthcoming consultation on the potential value of and options for a UK capability in digital twinning and wider ‘cyber-physical infrastructure’ to help unleash innovation. 
  • New visa routes including a High Potential Individual Route, A Scale-up Route and a revitalisation of the Innovator route. These are welcome announcements which techUK has called for as part of our Fast Forward to Digital Jobs Taskforce. Further details can be found on pgs 60 and 61 of the Innovation Strategy.  
  • A new innovation missions programme, time limited missions aiming to drive forward innovation in key areas. The missions will be supported with funding modelled on the Industrial Strategy Challenge funds with missions themselves selected at a later date by the new National Science and Technology Council.  
  • The announcement of seven new technology families (see details of the seven families below) which the Government will target with extra support to establish UK leadership in key strategic areas. Decisions around which specific technologies and the kind of support delivered will be determined by the National Science and Technology Council and a Business Innovation Forum which will be established to help drive Implementation of the wider Strategy.  

The seven technology families include: (1) Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, (2) AI, Digital and Advanced Computing, (3) Bioinformatics and Genomics, (4) Engineering Biology, (5) Electronics, Photonics and Quantum, (6) Energy and Environment Technologies, (7) Robotics and Smart Machines. 

What is in the strategy for the tech sector

The innovation strategy well defines the challenges that face the UK when it comes to innovation and R&D and sets tangible objectives for improvement by defining innovation and identifying key metrics by which the Government will judge success.  

The strategy also brings together a number of existing announcements as well as welcome new to capture the innovation policy action that is being taken across departments. This will be useful for members who want to map out and understand the Government’s focuses when it comes to innovation policy.  

However, while pointing in the right direction the strategy leaves a number of major decisions, specifically around the missions and technologies pillar to later, with little detail given on the specific actions that will be taken under this pillar. 

Many of these decisions will need to be taken soon if the Government wants to achieve its objective of making the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035 and it should ensure to consult with business stakeholders so that these choices are well informed and targeted to drive innovation and prosperity across the country.


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