UK Government’s Innovation Strategy

Anekanta Consulting welcomes the UK Innovation Strategy as a step forward towards building a vibrant ecosystem

The pandemic stimulated the problem solvers around the world to respond in near real time to the fast emerging global crisis, a situation no one had ever experienced before. There was no relevant data from which the trajectory and impact of the disease on people and society as a whole could be modelled.

The only way forward was to anticipate and invent. This occurred within multiple industries from PPE manufacture to the development of social distancing technology, video conferencing to rapid tests. Advances in communications technology, cloud computing and the application of analytical, deep learning and time based AIs also enabled the innovation community to safely share, analyse and visualise their findings for the benefit of the many stakeholders and policy makers.

It was the innovation which emerged through one of the UK’s leading research organisations, University of Oxford, which resulted in the commercial production of the AstraZeneca vaccine. A great success for the UK innovation community, saving lives and improving the outcomes for millions of people not just in the UK but around the world.

The development and route to exploitation of the vaccine are one of the core “proofs” at the heart of the UK Innovation strategy

Solving this problem was one of the top priorities for UK Government in 2020. The development of the vaccine had already started in January 2020 in anticipation of the emerging need. This was a high risk decision with no guarantee of success balanced against the growing threat. The “what-if” scenario could only be modelled from a very small sample data set and the chance of error was very high. Nevertheless the bet was placed, and it paid off.

The pandemic re-set the clock for British innovation and it is impossible to imagine a return to life as it was.

We agree that the path to the future should be created through innovation. We believe this will be facilitated through Government funding and the development of innovative leadership which is empowered to take risks

We have shared elements of the strategy in order to highlight the key areas which we feel will improve and accelerate the UK innovation ecosystem. We recommend that the reader set some time aside to review the entire 116 pages of the strategy. Here we offer up our initial perspectives in support of this very important body of work.

The UK Government’s key actions

We have extracted the four pillars from the strategy which sets out the government’s vision to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035. Our perspective is expressed below each pillar. We feel that clarity around access and an increase in start-up investment will help to achieve a successful and more wide reaching benefit beyond the Government’s objectives laid out in the strategy.

UK Innovation Strategy
Pillar 1: Unleashing Business

– We will fuel businesses who want to innovate

– Increase annual public investment on R&D to a record £22 billion.
• Reduce complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank.
• 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.
• Consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation.
• Form a new Business Innovation Forum to drive implementation of this Strategy.
Pillar 2: People

– We will make the UK the most exciting place for innovation talent.

• 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.
• Support, through Help to Grow: Management, 30,000 senior managers of small and medium-sized firms to boost their business’ performance, resilience, and growth.
Pillar 3: Institutions & Places

– We will ensure our research, development and innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK

• Undertake an independent review, led by Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, looking across the landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation.
• Allocate £127 million through the Strength in Places Fund to develop R&D capacity and support local growth across the UK.
• Invest £25 million of funding to the Connecting Capability Fund to help drive economic growth through university-business innovation.
Pillar 4: Missions & Technologies

– We will stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges faced by the UK and the world and drive capability in key technologies.

Establish a new Innovation Missions programme to tackle some of the most significant issues confronting the UK and the world in the coming years.
• Identify the key seven technology families that will transform our economy in the future.
• Launch new Prosperity Partnerships to establish business-led research projects to develop transformational new technologies, with £59 million of industry, university and government investment.
Anekanta Consulting’s perspective
Pillar 1: Unleashing Business

We welcome the increase in public investment into R & D and a commitment to simplifying the access to innovation funds.
We would like to see a clearer route which is signposted throughout and an overhaul to the application processes to incorporate a greater appetite for risk.
The UK business community has been calling for the creation of a bar to entry to the UK market and therefore welcome the regulation consultation.
Pillar 2: People

Development of people is critical to the success of the strategy. Inward investment is a key part of that.
Supporting the development of 30,000 senior managers is a good step forward.
According to the Office of National Statistics 2018 survey, there were estimated to be 2.4million senior managers and directors in full time employment in the UK.
Pillar 3: Institutions & Places

We look forward to the outputs of the independent review.
We welcome the allocation of funds to local growth and university-business innovation.
Whether generated from retained earnings or external funding, the investment into innovation can be well over £5million. Access to sufficient funds for early stage development is critical to the SME innovation community.
Pillar 4: Missions & Technologies

We welcome the new innovation missions programme and the clarity around the seven technology families.
• 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 investment into Prosperity Partnerships is welcome and needs to go further and fully appreciate the cost, value and quantity of potential partnerships.

Next steps

In summary, we welcome the UK Government’s Innovation Strategy and look forward to seeing further clarification around access to the outputs by the business community. Also a stronger bridge between Government, Academia and Industry, building on the success of the public-private partnerships which led to the successful development and roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine to market worldwide.

For further information visit the UK Government Innovation Strategy here or contact Anekanta Consulting to discuss how we may help you.

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