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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

UK Government responds to innovation strategy criticism

23 July, 2013
The UK Government has responded to a report by the Science and Technology Commons Select Committee which had warned Government′s lack of support for technological innovation is hindering academic researchers and the efforts of entrepreneurs

The Select Committee issued the warning in March 2013 in its report Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research, and prompted Select Committee chair, Andrew Miller MP, to say: “…British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground.”

In its 11 July response, the UK Government confirmed its plans to improve the financial environment for business, including the establishment of a Business Bank and the ‘above the line’ (ATL) credit for large company research and development investment. It also confirmed that the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will be its prime channel for supporting business-led technology innovation.

Responding, it said: “Government recognises that businesses have a diverse range of finance needs, and so have in place a wide range of measures to support their access to finance, including a number of schemes that support venture capital investment, including the Enterprise Capital Fund programme and UK Innovation Investment Fund. These developments, and the further implementation of the programmes and policies put forward in the Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth and through the various elements of the Industrial Strategy, will act to improve the commercialisation of research in the UK.”

Despite recognising that further work was needed to be done to improve the commercialisation of research in the UK, the Government did not announce any new initiatives in its response to the Select Committee.

David Brown, chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) said: “The recent Spending Review was relatively good news for science and yesterday’s announcement of £60m for Synthetic Biology research and development is more recognition of the importance of science and technology to support the UK’s economic growth. However, some universities and businesses reading Government’s response will consider many of the Select Committee’s concerns unanswered and weaknesses in the system remain.”

Earlier in the day, the UK Government announced it was investing £60m in Synthetic biology to help make the country a world leader in techniques that promise to revolutionise industrial manufacture. One of the flagship programmes will be a new £24m SynbiCITE centre hosted at Imperial College London, bringing together 17 universities and 13 industrial partners including GlaxoSmithKline and Shell.

In last month’s Spending Review for 2015-2016, the UK Government maintained resource spending levels for science in cash terms at £4.6 billion, as well as providing additional resource funding of £185 million for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to support innovation, including Catapult Centres. Government increased science capital funding in real terms from £0.6 billion in 2012-13 to £1.1 billion in 2015-16.

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