A transformative year ahead for UK innovation

Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK, highlights priorities for the UK’s innovation agency in 2024.
Posted on: 31/01/2024


Many of you will have seen the Innovate UK reviews of 2023. With the way that 2024 has started, it’s clear that this year is, and will be, another busy year across the Innovate UK system. 

I’d like to share some of the highlights of our plans for this year – a transformative year ahead for UK innovation. 

Innovate UK reaching more innovative businesses

We already work with thousands of the UK’s most innovative businesses.

  • In 2024, we are committed to reaching more than 1 million UK innovators through our work. Using new channels, partnerships and networks, we will reach businesses across the UK – spanning industries, sectors, technologies – and inspire and support new innovators. Reaching more small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to help them grow through innovation will be a priority.
  • We recognise that the innovation journey can sometimes be confusing. We will further develop our digital products to help businesses and innovators to access our support and navigate across other support in the public system.

Help innovative businesses to scale at pace

Innovative businesses which have the ambition and capability to scale up and then stay ahead are vitally important to our economy. They are the companies that generate valuable new products and services, and in doing so, create new jobs and prosperity.

Across the Innovate UK system, we supported many, many thousands of businesses last year, including providing dedicated, tailored innovation support to more than 10,000 innovative SMEs.

  • We plan to go further this year, including expanding our businesses going through our Scale Up programme, which offers our full range of products and services, from grants and loans to targeted engagement with investors and academics.
  • We are also increasing the opportunities for scale-up businesses to deploy and sell their innovations through the public procurement process, including through the drive for greater take-up and promotion of Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) programmes.
  • Partnership working is key to our success and this year we will continue to work alongside our scale-up partners, including the British Business Bank, UK Export Finance and London Stock Exchange Group to name a few. Joined-up working not only makes sense, but it reduces confusion for businesses and provides more opportunities for them to access finance to support their high-growth potential.

Investing in critical technologies

Innovate UK is actively delivering on the implementation of the Science & Technology Framework and the 5 critical technologies, aiming to give the UK strategic advantage by supporting the commercialisation of high potential transformative technologies.

AI, Quantum, Semiconductors, Future Telecoms and Engineering Biology span across our areas of focus for the future economy – NetZero, Digital & Technologies, and Healthy Living and Agriculture.

  • In 2024, through our domains, we will continue to invest in business innovation to realise new and significant market opportunities for the application of these critical technologies. We recognise that collaborations between small businesses and large enterprises can accelerate innovation. Collaborative R&D will remain a key focus for our portfolio.

Strengthen our national infrastructure to support business innovation

It is essential that innovative businesses can easily access the right infrastructure and know-how. For example, our Catapults provide a unique combination of facilities and expertise, accelerating innovation in key areas for UK growth and productivity.

  • Since last year we have been investing more than ever across the Catapults. With access to world class people, equipment and infrastructure, Catapults support many aspects of the innovation journey. One of the important roles is SME support, with over 25,000 businesses supported to guide, de-risk and scale their innovation activity.

Increase access to talent and skills

The role of talent and skills is vital to our economy and innovation system. There is incredible untapped talent across the UK that we must find ways to harness if we are to meet our national potential for growth.

Together, we have a huge opportunity to inspire and support a new pipeline of UK talent into the innovation system. Innovative businesses tell us that access to skilled and talented people is a key barrier to their growth.

  • In 2024, we are launching our No Limits platform, which matches people to new opportunities – helping to unlock talent and skills for innovation. No Limits will provide a connector for opportunities that already exist from our partner organisations, helping more people to access and succeed in the innovation system.

Connect across the UK and globally

Place is vitally important if we are to be an innovative nation. We are working through partnerships with local and national leaders to catalyse the full innovation potential of every community across the UK.

Our work over the past year in co-creating local action plans means that there are Innovation Action Plans for over half of the UK’s population.

  • In 2024, we will go further and double the number of Local Action Plans from 6 to 12.
  • We will also scale up our support for UK businesses looking to collaborate on innovation globally, building on our existing national agreements and the Horizon Europe programme.
  • We will forge new collaborative partners with other nations, establishing the UK as a partner of choice for innovation.

Innovating Innovate UK

As well as increasing our reach in 2024, we are also committed to continually improving our own performance. It is important that the businesses we engage with find us accessible and efficient to work with.

  • As part of our operational improvement programme, we are committing to halving the average time to process grant applications into Innovate UK, leading to faster decisions and freeing up valuable time for businesses.

Some personal news

I have decided to conclude my role as CEO of Innovate UK at the end of September this year.

As a long-term technology business leader, it is and has been a privilege to lead and shape the UK’s innovation agency since May 2021. It’s also been a privilege to meet so many innovators, entrepreneurs, businesses throughout the UK – to hear their stories and feel their energy and ambition as pioneers of change, and drivers for growth and productivity in our economy.

I’m proud to work with an excellent team of people across the Innovate UK system and have a busy 8 months ahead, with a full schedule.

Best wishes

Indro Mukerjee

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