Blog: Innovation and Place: National Policy and Funding a Year into the UK Industrial Strategy

With presentations from those close to the national and regional innovation agenda, this event on 31 January 2018 – hosted by Energy Systems Catapult – gave an interesting insight into national and regional strategies, and the support available to deliver these. The event was the latest in the Innovation Alliance WM’s series of Policy and Practice events, chaired by Andrew Sleigh.

(Andrew Sleigh)

Following an introduction from Pam Waddell, Director of the Innovation Alliance, on celebrating our first anniversary (see blog here), Paul Drabwell from the BEIS Innovation team spoke about the government’s commitment to raise investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP. The UK currently lags behind its competitors in terms of productivity, which is strongly linked to investment in R&D, currently at 1.7% of GDP.

(Paul Drabwell)

Paul described how the government is raising investment in R&D through sector deals, which are partnerships between the government and industry on sector-specific issues, and which will create significant opportunities to boost productivity, employment, innovation and skills. In parallel, following on from the UK’s National Industrial Strategy, Paul described how three trailblazer regions are producing their own Local Industrial Strategies, including the West Midlands. Emphasising the importance of place, Paul shared how he hoped the development of our Local Industrial Strategy was encouraging conversations between local bodies, and between these bodies and Whitehall about how to increase investment in R&D in the local area. In particular he noted how the West Midlands was starting to lead the way in looking at demand-led innovation programmes and activity, and improving networks and the innovation ecosystem to support innovation adoption and diffusion.

(Innovate UK)

Then, Ewa Bloch, Innovate UK’s new West Midlands Regional Manager reinforced Paul’s message about investment in R&D, showing how the UK currently lags behind Korea, Japan, Germany, Finland, USA and France.

(Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund)

Describing Innovate UK’s (IUK’s) mission to drive productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop new ideas and scale up, Ewa went on to outline the many ways in which IUK delivers this. She highlighted Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, the Strength in Places Fund (SIPF), and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) as three of the ways West Midlands organisations can engage with and benefit from IUK’s support.

(Ewa Bloch)

A thought provoking Q&A session discussed how sector deals could stimulate innovation along sector supply chains, how you can’t innovate unless you collaborate, how innovation can be stimulated by key purchasers, the power of public procurement as a stimulus for innovation, and the importance of cross sector collaboration.

(Panel Discussion)

The audience were left in no doubt about the power of innovation to stimulate productivity and economic growth!

Our next Innovation Policy and Practice breakfast will be held on 4th April in association with DIDFEST 2019. Keep your eye out for more details here.

(Author: Jane Holmes, IAWM)