Innovation: What our Economy Needs

Innovation: What our Economy Needs

Innovation is key to unlocking talent, boosting productivity and making the UK economy a world leader in ideas according to a recent white paper.

After Lord Sainsbury’s Review of Government’s Science and Innovation Policies in October last year, we have a white paper published by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) urging for investment in innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas).

The white paper entitled Innovation Nation (PDF – 923k) sets out UK Government intentions to make the country the best place in the world to set-up and run an innovative business or service and argues that innovation is key to Britain’s prosperity and ability to tackle major issues such as climate change.

A key point in the white paper is that innovation has evolved from traditional high-tech manufacturing to a more complex situation where all aspects of business and development are included. Whilst it highlights the positives of the UK’s innovation assets it also indicates where improvements can be made, chiefly involving business in research & development.

Innovation Nation comes hot on the heels of Budget 2008 where the chancellor announced that he would look into the practicalities of setting a target for SMEs to win as much as 30% of public sector business over the next 5 years.

Apparently £150 billion of public spending by the Government each year creates demand and new markets, as does its regulatory responses to issues such as global warming.

The measures set out in the paper are designed to ensure that UK businesses and people benefit from new demands for innovation. The first practical steps to drive innovation include commitments from every Government department to draw up an Innovation Procurement Plan as part of its commercial strategy. Government departments will then have a blueprint to embed innovation within their processes.

Knowledge exchange, increasing people’s skills, supporting innovative regions & towns and pushing innovation within the public sector are all on the agenda of the white paper.

Some of the main commitments in Innovation Nation include:

  • Government funding & support for businesses involved in innovative solutions & products designed for "global challenges" (like the production of low carbon vehicles for instance)
  • Providing 1000+ annual "innovation vouchers" to support & fund SMEs and educational institutions in order that they work together to develop new products & services.
  • Doubling the amount of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to boost knowledge transfer between the government & the private sector, and to stimulate competition & productivity.
  • A new Specialisation and Innovation Fund for colleges to support business.
  • Expanding the National Skills Academy network to offer an academy to each major sector in the economy.
  • A new Innovation Index to measure the UK’s innovation.

Recommendations in the report are already being implemented and studied by the government.

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