Government sets out investment strategy to spark UK innovation

The plan will boost annual R&D investment to £22 billion to turn innovation into concrete products and services

The government has launched a long-term strategy to encourage more private sector investment in the UK as it attempts to meet an annual target of £22 billion on research and development (R&D). 

This new strategy centres on devising ‘innovation missions’ to better understand the main issues confronting the UK that the government wants to tackle, in partnership with the private sector, in the coming years.

The National Science and Technology Council will identify these objectives, which will be matched with a number of strategic technologies that prioritise, and build on, existing R&D strengths. These technologies include advanced materials and manufacturing, AI, genomics, engineering biology, electronics, photonics and quantum, clean technology, and robotics.

Four principles will guide the roadmap, the government has explained. They comprise unlocking access to investment, fostering a positive environment for innovators, ensuring that institutions promote R&D across the whole of the UK, and stimulating innovation that plays to the UK’s strengths. 

“The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race,” said business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. 

“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.”

The announcement follows a series of funding rounds the government has led in recent weeks, including a £375 million fund for 'game-changing' startups this week, and the creation of an £800 million 'high risk' scientific research agency in February.

Much of these announcements have seemed random and uncoordinated, however, which is an issue that abiding by a unified, pan-industrial, long-term strategy will hope to address.

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Through the strategy, the government hopes to achieve a raft of objectives, including introducing new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes and reducing complexity for companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub. This is in addition to the headline figure of £22 billion annual public R&D investment.

The government will also publish a new action plan on ‘standards for the fourth industrial revolution’, conduct a review of the R&D landscape, and ensure government procurement allows for a route to market for new products and services.

To kick start the strategy, 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, the Midlands, Scotland and Cumbria, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

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