New Innovation Strategy starts a conversation on how to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035
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:
Unleashing Business – supporting businesses who want to innovate.
People – attracting the world’s best innovation talent to the UK.
Institutions & Places – ensuring innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK to spread prosperity.
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.
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads on techUK's policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly works with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of helping to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop a tech business.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input into the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations. He acts as a spokesperson for techUK in the media and at Parliamentary Committees. Neil was listed by the Politico newspaper as one of the 20 people who matter in UK tech.
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Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.
This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, digital ethics, Digital Identity and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential people in UK tech by Computer Weekly's UKtech50 Longlist and in 2021 was inducted into the Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame. A key influencer in driving forward the data agenda in the UK Sue is co-chair of the UK government's National Data Strategy Forum. As well as being recognised in the UK's Big Data 100 and the Global Top 100 Data Visionaries for 2020 Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.
Prior to joining techUK in January 2015 Sue was responsible for Symantec's Government Relations in the UK and Ireland. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Before joining Symantec, Sue was senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Sue has an BA degree on History and American Studies from Leeds University and a Masters Degree on International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Birmingham. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies, including Quantum Computing, High-Performance Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies, across the UK. As part of this, she works alongside techUK members and UK Government to champion long-term and sustainable innovation policy that will ensure the UK is a pioneer in science and technology
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.