In preparation for an edition of our funding e-news focused on innovation, we asked the South West regional manager of Innovate UK for a blog and she kindly provided us with the following on the importance of innovation for UK PLC and an introduction to the role of Innovate UK:
The UK is world player when it comes to innovation – right?
Wrong. The UK is currently languishing somewhere mid-table, the exact position varies according to whose analysis you use. What the UK is great at is research, but we’re not so great at embedding innovation within industry and using this as a driver for growth.
So what are we doing about it? Well, earlier this year, the Government launched its industrial strategy within which it announced a commitment of over £1 billion in the form of a challenge fund. This challenge fund is the Government’s way of identifying core industrial challenges where the UK has sufficient strength and expertise in both the businesses and the academic world to create solutions that will unlock markets and industries of the future. The funding is specifically desired to turn the UK’s research strengths into commercial products which in turn increases UK productivity.
Why is more public investment in innovation a good thing? A very, very good thing even? Well, innovation drives competitive advantage in businesses, and productivity growth in the economy as a whole – everyone’s a winner.
So where does Innovate UK come in to it? Well we are the Government’s arms-length vehicle for delivering this innovation strategy for the UK.
We fund: in addition to delivering the industrial strategy challenge fund, we run funding competitions twice a year in our four core sectors along with a sector wide open competition:
- Manufacturing and materials
- Emerging & enabling technologies
- Health and life sciences
- Infrastructure systems
We also run the small business research initiative (SBRI), we run innovation competitions on behalf of other organisations (such as the Newton fund) and international innovation missions.
Innovate UK funds two business facing organisations, the Knowledge Transfer Network and the Enterprise European Network. The former includes the management and delivery of the hugely successful and popular knowledge transfer partnerships. Connect is also about a team of regional & devolved administration managers who really understand the strengths and opportunities within their patch. This includes raising the visibility of Innovate UK more locally, and raising the visibility of gems of innovation excellence well hidden in the depths of wider UK. Regional & devolved administration managers also work with the area’s key stakeholders to try and ensure that the power of innovation is well understood, reflected in local strategies and aligned to national strategies to maximise the opportunities for impactful delivery.
Does it work? Well…it is starting to.
Although still with many places to climb on the global league table, we have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation since 2007 which has been matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding. We have helped more than 7,600 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £11.5 billion to the UK economy and create 55,000 extra new jobs. For every £ we invest £7 is returned to the UK economy. But we have more to do and this is definitely an ongoing journey.