Government sets out plans to put UK at front of global innovation race

Pictured: The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
Kwasi Kwarteng

New Innovation Strategy sets out plans to cement the UK’s position as a world-leader in science, research.  The new plans to boost private sector investment to put the UK at the front of the global innovation race have been set in a new Innovation Strategy launched by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

The Innovation Strategy 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 so they have the confidence to do so. 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, which is an essential part of our country’s future prosperity and key to achieving key domestic priorities, from tackling climate change and boosting productivity, to levelling up opportunities across the UK and supporting businesses out of the pandemic.

The pandemic has shown that major challenges can be resolved 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 seven 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:

  • Unleashing Business – fuelling businesses who want to innovate by ensuring effective access to private and public investment
  • People – creating the most exciting place in the world for talented innovators
  • Institutions and Places – ensuring R&D institutions serve the needs of businesses and promoting innovation in places across the UK
  • 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 challenges

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK can look back on a proud history of changing the world through innovation. From the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year, the impact on our everyday lives is undeniable.

“That spirit of discovery is still alive in this country today, but we have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.

“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.

“Through this long-term plan, we want to rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery, helping businesses to seize the vast opportunities that innovation can bring.

“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.”

The Strategy identifies areas where the UK has globally competitive R&D and industrial strength and that will transform our economy in the future – Advanced materials and Manufacturing; AI, Digital and Advanced Computing; Bioinformatics and Genomics; Engineering Biology; Electronics, Photonics and Quantum; Energy and Environment Technologies; Robotics and Smart Machines.

The government will work with universities and other research organisations, charities, Catapults, public sector research establishments and research and innovation institutes who will all 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, 5 pioneering projects will receive a share of £127 million through the Strength in Places Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) including in the Midlands, where £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

£25 million of funding for the Connecting Capability Fund will help drive further economic growth through university-business innovation, and eight new Prosperity Partnerships will establish business-led research projects harnessing the power of science and engineering to develop transformational new technologies that benefit companies, with £59 million of industry, university and government investment.