Skip to main content

Blog Innovate UK

Innovate UK
Innovate UK

Productive innovations

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Support

First, take a moment to think of someone you regard as productive.  We all know at least one.

It’s likely their productivity takes one of three forms.  That’s fairly straight-forward though, as productivity is a measure of how much value is added over the time inputted (ONS definition; GVA/hr) and so there are three ways in which high productivity can occur.

'Be more productive' phrase made up of odd letters of varying type and colour.

Using less time to produce a given value of goods

For instance Usain Bolt, the man who reached 100m before anybody else.  By the time his competitors had completed 100m Usain was already onto 105m!

Black and white ink image of an athlete sprinting.

Maintaining a high level of output, with little down-time

For instance Dame Judi Dench, as the UK’s most prolific film actress in lead roles with a record number of award wins and nominations.

Chalkboard diagram of a productivity loading bar from 0% to 100%

Creating valuable new outputs before other people do

For instance Elon Musk, the serial innovator and entrepreneur, who commercialises bold ideas to create new value on a global, and even inter-planetary, scale.

Productive people are adept at one or more of these three forms of productivity and the same applies to the innovations that can improve the productivity of businesses.  Which is hugely important, as up to 50% of our economy’s productivity gains have been attributed to technology innovation (ref BIS/RAEng/OECD) and improving the productivity of UK plc is crucial for enhancing our long-term living standards and public services.

So it’s worth looking more closely at those three forms of productivity, and at some of what Innovate UK is doing to support businesses to innovate on each.

Highly productive female business person with 6 arms all doing different tasks. A hand each holding a target, a loudhailer, a print out of a chart, a tablet showing a graph, holding a cup of coffee and holding a calculator.

1. Using less time to achieve a given value

The relationship between speed and productivity is tight-knit, and it’s frequently stated it takes UK workers five days to produce what French and German workers produce in four.  The French and Germans are more productive as they can produce the same value using less time.

Here in the UK, Red Ninja has designed a system to clear traffic routes for ambulances because they were not hitting their response times for emergency calls because of increased congestion.  The productivity gains that their system provides to ambulances can literally be a life or death matter.

The company received funding from Innovate UK as part of the life first emergency traffic control project which helped it progress quickly. “It might have taken us another 10 years to get to where we are now otherwise,” said founder Lee Omar.

2. Maintaining a high-value output

The last thing a business wants is disruption to their ability to produce value for their customers, and so innovations that prevent down-time will also be in strong demand for the foreseeable future.

Perceptive Engineering has built their business to meet this demand in the process industries.  Their predictive control and diagnostics tools are designed for one purpose - to keep process performing as close as possible to its optimal, at all times.

As well as receiving grant funding from Innovate UK, Perceptive Engineering has formed a partnership with the CPI, part of our High Value Manufacturing Catapult network.

Innovate UK’s Catapult network exists to help businesses to innovate.

3. Creating valuable new outputs before other people do

Most of the people we support want to be the first to commercialise a new idea, and capture the value that comes with it.  These are some of the UK’s most productive people and businesses.

Businesses like XCellR8, whose innovations in the cosmetics industry are replacing the use of animal testing, just as consumers and retailers around the world are demanding from the cosmetics industry.

Innovators like XCellR8 co-founder, Dr Carol Treasure, thrive on the outputs of research and so need convenient access to the leading-edge expertise and facilities, and the finance that enables the next steps to be taken.

Expertise, facilities and funding.  Innovate UK’s networks, such as the KTN or EEN, can connect businesses to them all.

Highly productive male business person with 6 arms all doing different tasks. A hand each holding a target, a loudhailer, a print out of a task list, holding a cup of coffee, holding a calculator and a list.

Shifting the productivity needle of a region

But beyond the productivity connection of Red Ninja, Precision Engineering and XCellR8, these three firms are also connected in another significant way.  They’re all located in a geographic cluster that spans the North West of England from the Merseyside to Manchester.

Innovate UK has supported the North West since our inception, with over 1,100 NW businesses receiving funding support since 2007, to the tune of almost £240m.  However, as noted in the recent Industrial Digitalisation review (ref Made Smarter), the North West is also capable of more, and more businesses in the clusters of the NW could be improving their productivity, and that of their customers, by being more proactive on innovation.

Announcing a major North West Innovation event

In this context North West Innovation 2018 will be a major event for the North West.

Happening on 8th February, at the STFC Sci-Tech Daresbury campus, this event will both inform and inspire businesses to innovate and be more productive through the stories of how others are doing it successfully.

Register your interest to attend now.

Follow Rick on Twitter.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Keith Harris posted on

    Will there be any other Innovation '18 events in other parts of the country?

  2. Comment by Prof. Ronald Stamper posted on

    I have a new technology that would, if adopted, save £1b /£5b a year from HMG / UK economy spending on ICT of, respectively, £18b / £80b. These results were paid for by UK and NL Taxpayers + IBM and Digital. (See my evidence to the HCSC on science and technology, Nov 17 to April 18.)

    I was forced by the NRDC to give a written undertaking to reserve these results for the UK economy, because, even relatively early in our project, they deemed our results of such high strategic importance. The actual results are far better than they imagines. HMG privatised NRDC and have forgotten their reciprocal commitment.

    Is anyone in Innovate UK interested? Or are we intended to remain at the bottom of the OECD productivity league?
    My communications with HMG suggest no one has any responsibility to help Principal Investigators of major research projects transfer their result into the economy.

    These results have been adopted by a few foreign organisations who have been operating with them for an aggregate of over 50 years, during which they have pocketed more than the £10+m of tax I have had the privilege to spend. Our technology is risk-free.

    As you might guess, I am very angry about the utter incompetence I have been struggling against.

    As I am about to send my evidence to the Select Committee. I thought I should give you one more chance to show that Knowledge Transfer is not DEAD before I send the evidence tot them.

    I'm sure you will tell me this is the wrong medium for such information. Why does no one use a grain of initiative, and ensure this message reaches someone empowered to act?

    I shall send that evidence on Wednesday next. I'd like to hear from you before that, to acknowledge this message and indicate what you will do initially. Just enough to know the ball is rolling.