Plans for a UK innovation strategy released by government

3D printing is a key advanced manufacturing technique in the fourth industrial revolution
3D printing is a key advanced manufacturing technique in the fourth industrial revolution

A new plan to boost private sector investment in innovation has been set out in the UK government’s new innovation strategy.

It aims to boost private sector investment in R&D across the whole of the UK, and create the right conditions for all businesses to innovate.

The UK is committed to increasing annual public investment on R&D to a record £22 billion, but the private sector also plays a key role in boosting spending on R&D.

The pandemic has shown that major challenges can be solved by ambitious investment in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, and has shown the public what British innovators can deliver when given ambitious support, freedom, and risk tolerance.

The strategy takes lessons learned from the pandemic, including from the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce – where the public and private sectors successfully worked alongside each other – and applies them find solutions to fundamental challenges facing the UK – including the relative decline in business R&D investment, skills gaps and the need for pro-enterprise regulatory environment to spur innovation.

To achieve this aim, the government will specify ‘innovation missions’ to set clear direction, urgency and pace on the issues confronting the UK that we want to tackle with the private sector in the coming years. 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 7 strategic technologies to prioritise and build on our existing R&D strengths, including clean technologies, robotics, genomics and AI, where the UK has globally competitive advantage and industrial strength.

The strategy outlines how the government will focus its efforts to support businesses and institutions at the cutting edge of innovation, setting out plans in four areas:

  1. Unleashing Business – fuelling businesses who want to innovate by ensuring effective access to private and public investment
  2. People – creating the most exciting place in the world for talented innovators
  3. Institutions and Places – ensuring R&D institutions serve the needs of businesses and promoting innovation in places across the UK
  4. Missions and Technologies – stimulating innovation in technology and missions that will provide the UK with a strategic advantage and will be critical to tackling some of our greatest challengesThe strategy identifies areas where the UK has globally competitive R&D and industrial strength – areas that will transform our economy in the future – including advanced materials and manufacturing; AI; robotics and smart machines.

Government partners in the innovation system will be critical to delivering our ambitions. Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will operationalise this Strategy in order to achieve our shared objectives.

The government will work with universities and other research organisations, charities, Catapults, public sector research establishments and research and innovation institutes who will play a key role in implementation of the strategy.

As part of efforts to ensure innovative business across the UK can capitalise on these strengths, five pioneering projects will receive a share of £127 million through the Strength in Places Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI):

  • In the North of England, £22.6 million will help the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Initiative to drive innovation for the UK’s advanced machinery manufacturers to put them at the cutting edge of emerging technologies such as robotics
  • In the Midlands, £18.3 million is being awarded to the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group to improve manufacturing processes in advanced ceramics - the funding will help to make ceramics manufacturing to become more energy-efficient, faster and cheaper
  • Working in Scotland and Cumbria, £21.3 million of funding will be awarded to the Digital Dairy Value-Chain project which will create a more sustainable dairy industry by combining digital communications and advanced manufacturing
  • In Wales, the project will bring together UK broadcasters, small local businesses and freelancers to research and develop new products and services for global markets thanks to £22.2 million of funding from the fund
  • And in Northern Ireland, £42.4 million will help the Smart Nano NI project to speed up the development of new nano-scale optical components to power our future digital devices

Commenting on the innovation strategy, Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation said: “The global innovation race is relentless and the goal of making the UK a world leader in science and innovation is one that industry fully supports. In particular while the UK has always been good at pure research it has less of a track record in turning this into commercially successful products, a weakness that this welcome and positive strategy will go a long way towards redressing.

“The commitment to fund projects building on the industrial strengths of each region in the UK is particularly welcome, as this will help create even more highly skilled jobs across the whole of the country and further embed the innovative and specialist work already being done.

“As we seek to transform our economy in the coming years linking our world class science and innovation base with exiting highly successful initiatives such as the Catapults with newer ones such as Made Smarter will be key to ensuring the UK is a world leader in emerging technologies, especially those that will help address the societal challenges we face. It is now essential that the laudable aims of this strategy are matched by full funding in the upcoming Spending Review.”

Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), said: “The government’s Innovation Strategy is an ambitious and exciting step towards cementing the UK’s position as a global scientific superpower. The plans will help the UK build on our excellence in research to meet our strategic ambitions, act as a catalyst to making the UK a global manufacturing powerhouse, and create new high-skilled, high-tech jobs across the country.

“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 £22 billion 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.

“The right policies will encourage solutions that will help strengthen our national resilience - whether by bolstering our supply chains against future shocks like those we’ve seen during the pandemic, or by helping to meet our net-zero commitments.”



Make UK [**]

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