Innovation policy at the polls
There's a paradox at the heart of innovation policy. On the one hand, it's achingly technocratic and niche. The ins and outs of research funding and the Enterprise Investment Scheme are never going to make the General Election leaders' debates, and probably won't even appear in manifestos. On the other hand, it speaks to some of the most central issues that voters care about: how Britain will make its way in the world, what we'll do for a living and the future of work, the NHS and the environment.
The net result is that politicians don't talk about innovation at all, or they treat it like a benign motherhood-and-apple-pie concept to be mentioned approvingly but nothing more. Neither of these outcomes is good for the public debate, or for good public policy-making.
So over the next few weeks, we'll be running a series of blog posts talking about innovation policy priorities for the next government. We'll be looking at specific policy ideas, and at the broader (and often thornier) issues: why is innovation policy so technocratic and does it have to be that way? Does it matter that some of the policies most important to the UK's innovative future don't fall into the Science and Innovation Minister's responsibilities? And what infrastructure will the next government need if it wants to put in place an ambitious innovation policy agenda?
We're posting the first blog today, an appeal for innovation policymakers to be less boring (sorry, innovation policymakers). Over the coming weeks, we'll be talking about, among other things:
- How much we should listen to the science lobby in discussions on innovation policy - and why politicians usually get it wrong
- What does government need to know to make an industrial strategy?
- How to make innovation work for the whole of the UK
- The great white hope of using procurement to promote innovation - and how to actually make it work
- What to do about short-termism and business underinvestment
- A review of what Westminster's think-tanks are saying about innovation, what's good and what's not.
- Why the UK need imagination, not just cost-benefit analysis, if it wants innovative infrastructure
We hope you enjoy it. And also that you disagree with at least some of it, because if you don't, we won't have gone beyond motherhood and apple pie that already dominates the subject. Here's to some controversy.