Inspire, Involve, Invest

Posted on: 05/12/2022
Scientist looking at molecular model

We live in uncertain times – but also a time of opportunity. Innovation, the process that turns science and technology into added-value business reality, is the vital ingredient to unlocking the UK’s economic potential.

A year ago, Innovate UK published its five-year Plan for Action. It set out how we will help businesses to grow and thrive, and contribute to the UK becoming a global hub for innovation by 2035 as outlined in the Government’s Innovation Strategy. We also published our Strategic Delivery Plan in September where we laid out how we are will deliver on our Plan for Action and the UKRI Strategy.

To deliver our goals, we are committed to:

  • inspire innovative businesses to create value though innovation.
  • involve talented organisations and people to create a vibrant and successful innovation ecosystem.
  • invest in innovation to make a clearly tangible positive impact on the UK’s economy and society.

We are excited by how much we have achieved since publishing the Plan for Action, made possible by the commitment and talent of our people across the entire organisation.

We have a strong respect and responsibility for the public money we deploy, and so impact, effectiveness and efficiency are at the heart of everything we do – we remain open and realistic about our challenges and plans to improve.

Supporting business, whatever stage

It is important that we support innovators with the right products and services they need along their innovation journey. Since publishing the Plan for Action, we have:

  • Expanded our Growth Support service provided by Innovate UK EGDE
  • Launched a national roll out of Innovation Loans, offering repayable finance for businesses who have identified a clear route to market but are still pre-revenue or pre-profit.
  • Begun selection of investors for our expanded Investor Partnerships programme 2023, providing grant funding for R&D projects to investment-ready SMEs with aligned private sector-led risk capital through equity investment.
  • Provided early-stage funding through Fast Start: Innovation grants for small and micro businesses that have not previously received Innovate UK funding to grow and realise their ideas faster, with Smart grants available for SMEs and their partners where the idea is proven but further R&D is required to realise the route to market.
  • Continued to provide access to expertise, facilities and partnerships through our brilliant Catapult and Knowledge Transfer Networks.
  • Worked with Research Councils to enhance research commercialisation across UKRI with 20 commitments and collaboration opportunities outlined in our Strategy Delivery Plan.

We will continue to develop our offering to ensure that we direct support to the very best ideas that leverage the private sector investment needed to commercialise, providing innovators with the right products and services they need along their innovation journey.

Overcoming challenges, creating opportunities

As we look forward to 2023, what are the prospects for innovation? There are always those who say that innovation is a long-term bet, with an uncertain pay-off.

But not innovating is simply not an option in the face of current and future challenges, such as climate change and an ageing population.

As the UK’s innovation agency, we must help to identify key areas of opportunity in the economy to address these challenges. For this reason, this year we conducted a Future Economy Review. Out of this work, we identified three domains that are integral for our long term; these are the parts of the economy where we can make the greatest difference:

  • Net Zero
  • Healthy Living and Agriculture
  • Digital and Technology

There are huge opportunities within each of these domains, and we will focus on innovation within these domains and sub-domains within them.

These innovations will have the potential to transform our future into one of prosperity, good health, respect for our planet and environment – and a future of fairness, diversity, and equality.

Innovation for everyone, everywhere

People are at the heart of the research and innovation ecosystem in the UK.

We recognise the importance of ensuring that every person in our society can make the most of the talent they have to support business innovation. That’s why we have expanded our Talent and Skills programmes to develop a diverse pipeline of talent and skills to help companies increase productivity, embed an innovation culture, and grow their business.

We are also committed to levelling up opportunities and productivity across the UK through maximising business innovation capability, using the power of innovation to bring prosperity and societal benefits to all of our communities. We recently launched an ambitious new programme of Launchpads investments across the UK to drive local cluster growth.

Place will always be an important axis in our strategic thinking – recognising the importance of leveraging the reach and breadth of UKRI collaborations, we are starting to co-develop Place-based Action Plans with local leadership in England and across the Devolved Nations. For example, in November we launched our Partnership and Action Plan with Liverpool City Region and in December a landmark agreement with Greater Manchester Combined Authority. We see these as the first of many regional partnerships in support of levelling up.

Measuring our impact

We have a strong respect and responsibility for the public money we deploy, and so impact, effectiveness and efficiency are at the heart of everything we do.

We are committed to being as transparent as possible about the impact of our work, which is why we have developed a new Impact Management Framework.

It provides a consistent way of designing programmes, collecting data from them, monitoring their impact – both during projects and after they have been completed – and then drawing out learnings to help drive continuous improvement.

If we get this right, the prize is huge. It means businesses across the country growing and innovating.

And alongside the very real benefits to UK plc, it means creating a better society for all of us.

That is a future worth fighting for, and we at Innovate UK are passionate about playing our part in creating it.

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