Government defends innovation policy

The government has defended its innovation policy after criticisms that the lack of a coherent strategy was harming UK business.

 

Engagement between the research base and innovation agenda was “fragmented and confusing and, as such, extremely difficult for small businesses to engage with”, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee report, Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research, warned in March.

Responding on 11 July, the government says that its existing plan The Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth incorporated a wide range of measures to ensure that the resources of the UK research base were fully used to support innovation. This would also be the case in its developing “Industrial Strategy”, it adds. 

“The Research Councils are specifically focusing on how to improve the quality and clarity of their communications in order to reduce any potential confusion, and make approaches from businesses of any size a less complex process,” says the response.

“The Gateway to Research tool is a key element of this provision that allows users to access research data sourced from a variety of Research Councils and outcome providers,” it adds.

In a statement, Research Councils UK says it seeks to “maximise the impact” of its research by working closely with a range of partners, including the UK funding councils, government and the Technology Strategy Board.

“With the TSB, this is through co-ordinating funding, brokering new partnerships between business and the research base, and encouraging knowledge exchange.

“This relationship is continuing to grow and our goal is strengthen our joint early strategic development work and to align and connect our wider portfolios,” it adds.

Responding to a recommendation from MPs that more facets of the UK’s innovation policy be consolidated under the TSB’s umbrella, the government says that having a single national UK innovation organisation under which most schemes are consolidated is “clearly desirable to help UK business access the right support”.

On “Catapult” centres, which the committee had asked be allowed to grow slowly and organically rather than be pushed to generate revenue, the government says that revenue is a key demonstrator of their relevance to industry.

MPs had also questioned whether changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund in 2011, which reward institutions that have already benefited from successfully commercialising their intellectual property, might further decrease the success of already struggling institutions.

The government says there is no evidence that significant marketable intellectual property opportunities would be lost from institutions which now secured lower Heif allocations.

It also stresses that institutions without Heif allocations since the reforms were able to apply for project funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England or through TSB schemes.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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