Everyone has a different definition for “innovation”.
I think of innovation as simply “delivering better outcomes”.
It is broad enough in scope to reflect the importance of innovation in enhancing every aspect of our lives, whilst at the same time emphasising the criticality of delivery and the need for leadership and collaborations in order to achieve those better outcomes.
In introducing his new ministerial team, our new Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, observed that:
[An industrial] strategy makes connections between what might otherwise be disparate forces; aligning them, rather than leaving them isolated or even opposed.
So how do you use industrial strategy to make effective connections between what might otherwise be disparate forces and how do you then use those connections to deliver better outcomes?
Success = research + innovate + scale
Fortunately, in the automotive sector, we have an outstanding example of how research, innovation, industry and government connects together and aligns through an industrial strategy, to deliver record results.
At the heart of the automotive industrial strategy for technology is an integrated end-to-end ecosystem, which is aligned to its shared ambitions and “The Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform” is a great example of how the entire auto sector, proactively supported by government, was able to respond successfully to the challenge ahead of them.
It’s a powerful model, which aligns everyone around progressing the most promising technologies: from the early stages of research; through the mid stages of innovation; to the later stages focused on the capability to scale.
Game changer 1 = UK innovators + cross disciplinary science
Each sector of the economy is of course very different and the journey from concept to commercialisation is rarely a linear one but a clear industrial strategy fosters connections and alignment.
We have all experienced the powerful difference when you are in a team with a common purpose.
Following Sir Paul’s Nurse’s review, the government has set in motion legislation, which will bring together the Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation – UKRI. Creating new opportunities to build even stronger connections both between research disciplines and between cross-disciplinary research and innovation.
This not only fits well with the benefits demonstrated by the earlier automotive example, but it moves the entire game on, by ensuring that it’s cross disciplinary research teams, which are integrated into cross technology innovation initiatives which are in pursuit of our future industrial strategies.
Game changer 2 = UK innovators + regional priorities
It was as Minister for Universities, Science and Cities in December 2014 that the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP launched “Our plan for Growth: science and innovation".
It was the first time that the importance of place was recognised in the science and innovation strategy and set in motion a series of new conversations and the development of a new set of connections.
Now, eighteen months on, Innovate UK has in place a team of Regional Managers to understand the intercepts between regional priorities and UK excellence and we will be opening shortly our first regional hubs.
Our UK-wide competitions, not only ensures that the best results are obtained for the public money invested but the approach raises the game of every business participating in them.
If you are competing globally, it is not sufficient that you are the best in your locality; you need an intensity of competition, which ensures you are up there with the best in the world.
There is a powerful opportunity now for Innovate UK to partner with other funders in order to combine UK excellence with regional priorities.
Innovate UK consistently receives more proposals over the quality line than it can fund itself.
Going forward we look forward to working with a wide range of funders to invest in many more proposals, which are both over the quality line and aligned to regional priorities. It’s an exciting way forward and is already in trial with Scottish Enterprise in the Biomedical Catalyst.
Game changer 3 = UK innovators + crowding forward investment
A key criterion for public sector investment is that it is “additional”, that it doesn’t crowd out willing private sector investment.
Indeed, the goal of Innovate UK is quite the opposite - to crowd in private sector investment by building private sector confidence in tackling the markets of the future.
We shouldn’t, though, be satisfied with just simply crowding-in private sector investment; we should be proactively crowding it forward.
Leveraging the structure and robustness of Innovate UK’s competitions as a strategic platform through which the private sector (commercial and 3rd sector) can gain the confidence it needs to invest both earlier and more widely.
Game changer 4 = UK innovators + Europe and the World
There is of course one set of relationships that will now be redefined, following the referendum decision to leave the European Union.
As I reported to the House of Commons inquiry, the current EU programmes, are incredibly important to the UK, providing us with connections to both European collaborators and supply chains.
UK industry, RTOs and Catapult Centres currently win approximately 340 million euros a year of funding from Horizon 2020. It is about one third (31%) of the total funding for the UK and our SMEs win more funding than any other country.
Industry, like science, is a global endeavour and whilst it is critical that we successfully manage the transition of our relationship with the EU, we must also seize the opportunity to build new global connections and to redefine our collaborations and partnerships around the world.
So there you have it. Four game changing connections, which offer us a huge opportunity to now deliver better outcomes in the future.
You can follow me on Twitter: @KevinBaughan
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