The UK R&D Roadmap (published July 2020) builds on the Government’s Commitment in March 2020 to increase public investment in research and development (R&D) to £22 billion per year by 2024 to 2025. In the light of COVID-19 there is a need to be even more creative and innovative to adapt and recover swiftly and build a future which is greener, safer and healthier than before.
The R&D Roadmap seeks to be a once in a generation opportunity to revitalise the whole system of science, research and innovation to release its potential. It is acknowledged in the Roadmap document that this will ‘require tackling fundamental and challenging questions about our R&D priorities and addressing long-term problems in the system’
In the light of this, the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands responded to the R&D Roadmap. The full response can be downloaded at the bottom of this page, but in summary, we proposed the following three major changes in focus for the R&D system in the UK:
- More focus/ investment in stimulating and supporting the demand side of innovation, from the private sector, public sector, third sector and, indeed the public/ end customers. Ultimately, innovation needs a market, so stimulating that market and enabling new knowledge and technologies to be PULLED (rather than simply pushed) into these markets is critical. COVID-19 has brought significant and pressing innovation challenges, demanding immediate solutions that break through sectoral, regulatory and societal barriers; if we act fast, we can capitalise on this new and accelerated focus on demand-led innovation (beyond the immediate crisis) in order to create new market opportunities and aid economic recovery for innovative business.
- Greater recognition of and support for exploitation of the knowledge and technology being generated across the full spectrum of businesses, large and small, as well as public and third sector. The strength of our R&D base is rightly recognised, and seen as a source of innovation, but business to business innovation, within and between supply/ value chains at all levels, is hugely important and merits more attention and support. This will require barriers and enabler to innovation in different sectors and types of organisations to be understood and addressed.
- Greater recognition of the diversity of excellence in R&D and innovation, and of the diversity of innovation ecosystems across the UK. If the full potential of the R&D&I system is to be realised high levels of business investment as a form of ‘excellence’ should be recognised and encouraged with public match. This will support levelling up, along with greater flexibility to tailor local measures to best support local economies and populations.
Overcoming barriers to business innovation, driving up business demand and improving capacity to absorb new approaches will be crucial to improving economic impact and application of new knowledge and closing the productivity gap between different sectors and parts of the UK. The Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands believes that that the five elements of the West Midlands Innovation Programme will help us to make a start on building a stronger business innovation ecosystem for the West Midlands, but to scale up the impact will require sustained investment and wider acceptance of the demand-led approach to R&D and Innovation.