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UK Government spells out new innovation strategy

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 30 Jul 2021

A new strategy promising to create the right conditions for businesses to turn scientific and technical innovations into new products and services has been laid out by government.

The Innovation Strategy includes a commitment to increasing annual public investment on R&D to £22bn and boost private sector investment, which it says will together cement the UK’s position as a world-leader in science, research and innovation. As part of the strategy, the government has also outlined seven strategic technologies to prioritise and build on the UK’s existing R&D strengths: 

  • Advanced materials and manufacturing;
  • AI, digital and advanced computing (including artificial and virtual reality);
  • Bioinformatics and genomics;
  • Engineering biology;
  • Electronics, photonics and quantum;
  • Energy and environment technologies; and
  • Robotics and Smart Machines.

The government says 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.

The strategy also includes a promise to consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation. The government says it will 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.

Meanwhile, the introduction of new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes and a pledge to revitalise the Innovator route will attract and retain high-skilled, overseas talent. 

Closer to home, 30,000 managers of small and medium sized businesses will be offered access to Help to Grow: Management, a 12-week executive development programme 90% funded by the government and delivered by a consortium of business schools across the UK. 

Commenting on the strategy, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race.”

“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.”

Shaun Beaney, Manager in ICAEW’s Corporate Finance Faculty, said that the Innovation Strategy clarified the UK government’s priorities following a period of uncertainty about future funding for R&D and innovation investment.

“Innovation is about applying new ideas and research to industry and commerce, so that’s very significant for everyone, including ICAEW’s members in business, advisory and investment.”

“Innovation investment helps to make the weather for the kind of industrial sectors and businesses that will emerge in those seven strategic technological areas.”

“If we had any criticism of this strategy, it’s that more could have been included about net zero and climate change, which is not as prominent as we might have expected.” 

Beaney also pointed out that the Innovation Strategy made relatively little reference to international cooperation: “The reality is that the challenges we’re talking about are global.The most effective innovation often involves multinational collaboration, as well as investment from many different countries.”

ICAEW Know-How from the Corporate Finance Faculty

This guidance is created by the Corporate Finance Faculty – recognised internationally as a centre of professional excellence in corporate finance. The Faculty is the largest network of professionals involved in corporate finance and represents the interests of its members with policymakers and facilitates a highly effective business development network.

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