UK Government Launches New Innovation Strategy

The plan aims to unlock private-sector investment in research to ensure the UK is a long-term global leader in science, research and innovation.

The UK Government has published its new Innovation Strategy to boost private sector investment in R&D across the whole of the UK and cement the UK’s long-term position as a global leader in science, research and innovation.

The plan focuses on unlocking private investment in research and creating the right conditions for all businesses to innovate so they have the confidence to do so. The strategy takes lessons learned from the pandemic, such as from the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce where the public and private sectors successfully worked alongside each other, and applies them in order to 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 sets out plans in the following four areas to support businesses and institutions at the cutting edge of innovation:

  • 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 the nation’s greatest challenges

The Strategy also identifies the following seven areas where the UK excels and that will transform the 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. 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
  • 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
  • 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

In addition to the Strength in Places Fund, £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.

Further measures in the strategy include the following:

  • Increase annual public investment on R&D to a £22 billion.
  • Ensure government procurement is proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
  • Consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
  • Commission the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including considering whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation
  • Introduce new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, and revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent
  • Undertake an independent review to assess landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
  • 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
  • Expand IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services to bolster innovative companies’ and researchers’ ability to confidently collaborate, export and invest overseas
  • Publish a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish.
  • Invest £200 million through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to target the growth-stage funding gap faced by UK life science companies
  • Support 30,000 senior managers of small and medium sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth

Announcing the plans, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

‘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.’

Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will lead on the strategy, while the Government will work with universities and other research organisations, charities, Catapults, public sector research establishments (PSREs) and research and innovation institutes to help deliver its objectives.