UK government unveils its answer to the 'innovation challenge'

December 19, 2003

Brussels, 18 Dec 2003

The UK government's department of trade and industry (DTI) has published a new report outlining its strategy to boost the country's innovation performance and productivity.

In a foreword to the report 'competing in the global economy: the innovation challenge', UK Prime Minister Tony Blair warns: 'Too many of our firms have failed to put enough emphasis on R&D [research and development] and developing skills.' To answer the challenge, Mr Blair believes a major cross government initiative is required.

Repeatedly, the government states its desire to see the UK become a 'key knowledge hub in the global economy.' While the UK scientific base is among the strongest in Europe, more must be done to turn knowledge into new products and services, according to the report.

A first step is the creation by Mr Blair of a ministerial team, chaired by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt, charged with leading the innovation agenda across all areas of government and implementing the findings of the report.

The UK government also sets itself an ambitious target: 'In terms of business R&D and patenting we will aim to be the leading major country in Europe within ten years.' In order to achieve these goals, the government proposes to take a series of direct measures in a number of key areas.

First, the report emphasises the importance of international science and technological collaboration. The government aims to increase the participation of UK businesses in European programmes such as the Framework Programmes and Eureka.

Furthermore, the report pledges that the UK will 'press the European Commission to simplify the application process for Framework [Programme] projects [and] integrate more closely the EU's Innovation Relay Centres in the UK with other national efforts.'

The UK also aims to develop a technology strategy, with a medium to long term perspective, designed to help guide government support for science and technology and identify opportunities for innovation public procurement methods. Closely integrated into this strategy will be a new programme of measurement for emerging technologies, addressing nanotechnology and the biosciences.

The UK government also feels there is more scope for collaboration between its main R&D funding bodies, the Research Councils, and business. The report therefore calls on the Research Councils to increase their rate of knowledge transfer and interaction with the private sector through activities such as collaborative research, start up companies, and the small business research initiative.

Finally, the report pledges to improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs, work with business schools to improve the teaching of skills that underpin the management of high tech, fast growth companies, and work with regional development agencies to help set up new regional science and industry councils.

To read the report, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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