Is the UK Getting Innovation Right?

www.nesta.org.uk/report/uk-getting-innovation-right/
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Is the UK Getting Innovation Right?

Following an election that seems to have settled the question of Brexit and has returned the first significant majority any government has enjoyed in a decade, public and political attention is likely to turn towards the pressing domestic issues that have felt neglected in recent years.

For this study, we set out to better understand public attitudes to innovation at a time of great technological and social change. Surveyed in Autumn 2019, we found participants preoccupied with an uncertain future, with two thirds finding a lack of long-term vision for the future of the UK outside the EU.

We found that the public want leaders to approach the many problems and uncertainties they experience in new and innovative ways, and want to see innovation used to solve social as well as economic issues.

  • People want innovation to be used to tackle inequality – but don’t see it having that effect at present.
  • A majority (55 per cent) are prepared to limit certain types of innovation where it is likely to lead to inequality or disadvantage certain groups, and suggested implementing safeguards to protect the most vulnerable against unintended consequences.
  • People are keen to see innovation benefit the whole country and are willing to make some trade-offs to see this happen. For example, if there is a trade-off between reach and impact, 81 per cent of people would rather see innovation that has a smaller impact on a greater number of people over that which has a deeper impact on fewer people.
  • People believe government investment should focus on helping all parts of the UK become more prosperous, with 67 per cent willing to see some areas grow more slowly than they otherwise would as a result.
  • They also believe we should be investing in innovation that has a positive social impact, even if it doesn’t necessarily contribute to economic growth too. Top priorities included making the UK’s population healthier, improving the UK economy, making the UK safer and addressing the causes of climate change.

Recommendations

To ensure the public’s expectations are met, we urge the Government to rethink its innovation agenda for the new decade to:

  • Direct research and development funding to tackle the challenges that really matter to people, like climate change, inequality and poor health.
  • Increase the impact of innovation at a local level by devolving more of the UK’s research and development budget to cities and regions, spreading the benefits of innovation across the UK.
  • Become more transparent about how public money is spent on innovation and how these decisions are made, to justify to the public how innovation policy is improving people’s lives.
  • Involve the public in meaningful conversation about the future and the role of innovation by making greater use of new 'participatory futures' methods.

This research was undertaken for Nesta by Viki Cooke, Holly Wicks, Max Templer, Rowan Douglas and Chantal Aberdeen at BritainThinks.

Download the full report or an executive summary above, and you can find the full data tables on the BritainThinks website.

Authors

Jen Rae

Jen Rae

Jen Rae

Head of UK Innovation Policy

Jen Rae is a policy advisor on innovation and economic growth for Nesta’s Policy and Research team.

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Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Head of Inclusive Innovation

Madeleine Gabriel leads international projects that explore how new models of innovation can tackle big social challenges. Her current work includes a study on whether and how the conc…

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Ksenia Zheltoukhova

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

Director of Research Operations, Research, Analysis & Policy

Ksenia is Director of Research Operations, she is responsible for developing the strategic decision-making and project delivery capability of the RAP team.

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Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Co-Head of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

The Centre for Collective Intelligence Design will be exploring how human and machine intelligence can be combined to develop innovative solutions to social challenges

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Laurie Smith

Laurie Smith

Laurie Smith

Principal Researcher, Explorations

Laurie undertakes experimental work in new fields at Nesta and leads for the organisation on futures methods.

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Harry Farmer

Harry Farmer

Harry Farmer

Senior Policy Adviser, Inclusive Innovation

Harry works to develop and advocate for policies to make the UK’s burgeoning innovation economy fairer, more inclusive and more conducive to the public good.

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Alex Porter

Alex Porter

Alex Porter

Senior Policy Advisor, Innovation Policy

Alex is responsible for maximising Nesta's impact as an influential voice on innovation policy in the UK.

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