In 2017 the recommendations of the Nurse review will continue to be taken forward, with a view to the creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This represents an opportunity to be more strategic in identifying research and innovation priorities, and thereby strengthen the innovation system in the UK. UKRI aims to improve collaboration between the research community and the commercial sector, and will help innovation flourish by bringing together universities, businesses and intermediaries. To this end the Innovation Caucus is working with Research Councils and Innovate UK to foster business innovation, and will continue to support efforts to enhance quality of evidence on the UK's research and innovation landscape.
Another major change on the horizon in 2017 concerns the introduction of loans, as Innovate UK is set to unveil a number of 'new innovation finance products' intended to support business innovation. The need for new funding models reflects the tightening of Government spending, while also acknowledging that the costs of innovation should not be entirely underwritten by the public purse. A number of countries have piloted the introduction of loans, and this will be an area where the Innovation Caucus will continue to work closely with Innovate UK to develop and evaluate the evidence base.
Geographies of innovation
Despite the accelerating devolution agenda in England, and across the UK, responsibility for innovation has continued to be nationally led. While there is no push to devolve innovation funding or policy, there is a need to understand the nature of local and national priorities and how they relate. This is increasingly important as local economies are striving to deliver innovation-led growth, both at the Local Enterprise Partnership and city scale. A key question for the Innovation Caucus is how to ensure the coherence of local and national priorities to deliver economic growth.
Universities remain important anchors of the innovation system in the UK, and are major beneficiaries of innovation funding. But a central challenge remains how to translate scientific excellence into innovation, and with it leverage economic impact and growth. The Innovation Caucus is working to identify effective ways of achieving this transfer, which is critical to the future of innovation-led growth. Given the strength of the UK's research base, there is a need to ensure that the innovation ecosystem builds on this foundation.
The primary focus of the Innovation Caucus is the UK, but innovation is a global game. Increasingly, innovation, like academic research, is becoming more collaborative and geographically dispersed. This poses new challenges for how best to support innovation, but if the UK is to remain competitive as an innovation-led economy this needs to be understood by all stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem. There is a need to recognise that innovation is central to economic growth, and if the UK does not engage and invest like its international counterparts we will fall behind.