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Speaking on the launch of the government’s new Industrial Strategy paper, Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive Officer​ at Nesta, said:

"The green paper launched today is off to a promising start with innovation-led growth at the very heart of it. Nesta is particularly excited about the commitment to a pilot ‘Inventor Prize’ to be run with our Challenge Prize Centre. It will seek to harness the potential of the UK’s home-grown inventors and stimulate user led innovation.

"We want Government to remember during this next consultation process that innovation isn’t just about technology and science and doesn’t just come from the R&D spending budget: it needs the whole of government behind it, and it’s as important for sectors like retail and the creative industries as it is for manufacturing.

"To make the most of important new technologies like self-driving cars Government needs to align what’s done on R&D with standards and regulation, cooperation with insurance providers and transport planning. That kind of joined up government has been missing in the past but will be increasingly essential.

"This is also a moment when Government can commit to making much more use of data to guide policy - far better data is now available, and can help ensure that policy responds to reality on the ground, and the role played by younger companies, rather than lobbying by incumbents which has so often distorted industrial policy in the past." 

Nesta responds to five key areas of the industrial strategy launched today:

Innovation and investment:

“One of the failures of past strategies has been balancing local growth with national priorities, with London and the South East seeing more investment and, by consequence, improved prospects. We welcome the consultation on how to prioritise spending the additional £4.7bn of R&D funding - it asks some timely questions about the balance of public spending on R&D and how to best support innovation strengths in local areas.

“Given only three per cent of innovative British companies cite universities as a source of innovation, it will be important that a significant chunk of this additional cash goes towards helping businesses to be more innovative, channeled through Innovate UK for concentrated impact.”

“It’s crucial to identify where innovation is happening - mapping will help prioritisation and allow for a more sophisticated approach to identifying and targeting public support for innovative businesses. Nesta has been trialing how new data techniques can be harnessed to give a more up to date and detailed picture of innovation across the UK, such as mapping the growth of the UK’s creative industries.”

New ‘Sector Deals’ and supporting disruptive business:

“Innovation is not just about science and technology, and research commercialisation. To generate broad growth, we need to support both emerging industries and existing companies. It is pivotal that fast growing, less defined sectors like digital and creative industries are supported in their interaction with government so that they secure the partnerships and deals they need to thrive.  

“Equally important is that we see regulation customised to accommodate disruption in the market from innovators; tailored regulation was a key to positioning the UK as a leader among its European counterparts in the alternative finance market.”

Technical skills/STEAM vs STEM:

“It’s a welcome development that the government is taking technical skills seriously, as it’s an area that has been underinvested in for some time. But this investment needs to be in the context of a strategy that is looking at not just jobs but industries of the future. Ultimately, the workplace of the future requires new digital skills but human skills, like creativity, problem-solving and collaboration still have a crucial place.

“Nesta research has shown that creative jobs are at much less risk of automation. Unfortunately, if the government continues to focus on STEM as opposed to STEAM, it is missing an opportunity to bolster what is an increasingly important sector for the economy in line with the marginalisation of the arts from schools via the introduction of the English Baccalaureate.

“Putting the issue of lifelong learning back on the agenda is also a welcome change in direction, not least given UK public funding for adult education has fallen by more than a third since 2010 and few employers see reason to invest in the skills of their lower paid staff. Such an approach means all workers are benefitting from a changing workplace and ensures more sustainable and equitable growth.”

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund:

“The Government must be decisive in how the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is used; ambitions must be set high and framed around the major societal problems of our time. This is an opportunity to adopt a challenge-led approach to support the development of technologies and industries in which the UK could become a world-leader - take tidal power, for example - but also do so in a way that benefits all corners of society.

“In turn, it sends a clear signal that the UK is an international hub for the development of future technologies, and gives businesses, large and small, the confidence to invest. But this funding should not go towards more of the same programmes. Instead it should stimulate innovation from the more unusual quarters of our society and economy, as well as from the usual suspects. We would welcome a dedicated amount of funding to support open innovation - the UK historically lags in this area.”

- Ends 

For additional comment, please contact Kasia Murphy in the Nesta press office on [email protected] or on: 020 7438 2160