Innovation for Growth in a rapidly developing policy context

There have been a plethora of reports and announcements nationally and locally that will have a bearing on the Innovation for Growth agenda over the coming months.  Here is a brief summary of each:

Dowling Review of Business-University Research Collaborations, the headline findings are:
– Public support for the innovation system is too complex
– People are central to successful collaborations
– Effective brokerage is crucial, particularly for SMEs, and continued support is needed for activities that help seed collaborations
– Pump-prime funding would stimulate the development of high quality research collaborations with critical mass and sustainability
– Technology transfer offices need to prioritise knowledge exchange over short-term income generation, and further work is required to improve approaches to contracts and IP agreements
– Government strategy on innovation needs to be better coordinated and have greater visibility

The ‘Productivity Plan’ – a 15-point plan that the government will put into action to boost the UK’s productivity growth, centred around two key pillars: encouraging long-term investment, and promoting a dynamic economy. The most relevant points to innovation are the following:
– A highly skilled workforce, with employers in the driving seat
– World-leading universities, open to all who can benefit
– High quality science and innovation, spreading fast
– Financial services that lead the world in investing for growth
– Resurgent cities, a rebalanced economy

Jo Johnston, Minister for Science, ‘One Nation Science’ speech on 16 July, layed out his views on the importance of investment in science for productivity, the need to drive of innovation nationally and locally (citing the Dowling report and ‘Productivity Plan’, above), and increasing diversity in STEM .

Framework and set of indicators to compare local innovation at LEP level . The report summary starts ‘The importance of ‘place’ to science, innovation and economic growth is increasingly recognised but under analysed and not yet fully understood. This report seeks to provide a consistent body of evidence of comparative innovation strengths in the 39 LEP areas to help LEPs and their partners to marshall their innovation assets to best effect using European Structural Funds and other funding streams.’ In brief, the report largely confirms the strength of our local research base, but highlights poor local business investment and performance in innovation, with the exception of Coventry and Warwickshire.

There is a clear expectation that the above report should form the starting point for local audit of innovation strengths by each locality (at LEP and/ or larger level). Regions that have already conducted some for of Smart Specialisation Strategy as part of their European Structural and Investment Funds Strategies will already have some of this in place. Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire has done some of this work, but not Greater Birmingham.
Innovate UK new 5 Point Plan has been launched by the New Chief Executive, Ruth McKernan, , which she spoke about on 30 June at Venturefest West Midlands. This is being more fully developed into a strategy to be published in the autumn. The five points are:
1. Accelerating UK Economic Growth by nurturing small, high growth firms in key market sectors
2. Building on innovation excellence throughout the UK, investing locally in areas of strength
3. Developing Catapults within a national innovation network
4. Working with the research community and across government to turn scientific excellence into economic impact
5. Evolving funding models to help public funding go further and work harder

The West Midlands Combined Authority was launched on 6 July by the leaders of the sever Metropolitan Councils. The other Councils in the three LEP areas are invited to join. The launch statement ‘Growing the UK Economy through a Midlands Engine’  was published. It is currently expected that Councils, LEPs and the Combined Authority will co-exist, with issues being dealt with at the appropriate geographic level.
Budget announcement on 21st July that: “City regions that want to agree a devolution deal in return for a mayor by the Spending Review will need to submit formal, fiscally-neutral proposals and an agreed geography to the Treasury by 4 September 2015. The Treasury and DCLG will work with city regions to help develop their proposals.”
Proposals are in development that fit the above criteria and expresses the ambition and appetite for growth, productivity and reform – and the devolved settlement we will need with government to achieve the greatest benefit for citizens, businesses, the economy and the Exchequer. Innovation is part of this, and discussions are underway about what might be included.