Budget Boost For Innovation, Green Tech and Skills

24 04 2009

More details are emerging about the new £750m Strategic Investment Fund announced in this year’s Budget to support advanced industrial projects of strategic importance to the country and the economy. The Fund promises to focus investment on innovative and fast growing companies in sectors including biotech, clean energy and digital media.

A £250m allocation from this Fund will be earmarked for low-carbon investment, while the Technology Strategy Board will receive £50m and UK Trade & Investment, which supports UK businesses trading internationally, will get £10m. There will also be enhanced capital allowances for energy-saving and water-efficient (environmentally beneficial) technologies.

Strategic investment

Innovation and ‘green’ sectors of the economy were heralded as big winners in the 2009 Budget, with an additional £500m of spending announced as part of an overall £1.4bn package of targeted support to boost Britain’s low-carbon sectors.

NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) welcomed the announcement on Budget Day. Its Chief Executive, Jonathan Kestenbaum, said: “Today the Government took a vital step on the road to recovery and the future looks a lot brighter for the UK’s entrepreneurs. The Fund will give a new vibrancy to the UK’s technology market and will bring about deep and lasting change to our economy.”

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths-related (STEM) subjects in schools will benefit from a £2m investment to provide the knowledge and skills needed by some of the sectors where development will be concentrated thanks to new investments in innovation and strategically important technologies.

The NCGE already provides direct support for STEM entrepreneurs – for instance, through new FlyingStart Programmes for Engineers, with the Royal Academy of Engineering; Software Entrepreneurship and Online Business, last December with Microsoft and Agitavi Research; and now ‘Go WEST’ – Women in Engineering, Science and Technology. Candidates have until 15th May to apply for this event at the University of Surrey.

Support for business

The Budget saw a series of other measures introduced or extended to ease pressure on small businesses. Support for business in the current year looks fairly substantial. Chief among the measures is increasing to 40% tax relief to businesses on capital spending – for one year only. This scheme alone is forecast to cost the Treasury £1.64bn.

For loss-making companies, there will be the chance to reclaim taxes on profits made in the last three years until November 2010. A top-up trade credit insurance scheme will be introduced, which will match private sector trade credit insurance provision if insurers reduce their cover for businesses operating in the UK.

The total cost of deferring payments to HMRC through an extended Business Payment Support Service, the car scrappage scheme, improvements to venture capital investment schemes, and various other smaller initiatives is over £3.3bn.

Reacting to the budget on BBC Two’s Newsnight programme, Lord Karan Bilimoria, the Government’s National Champion for Graduate Entrepreneurship, said: “What we’ve got to do is encourage entrepreneurship, encourage enterprise. People forget the basics: that it is actually wealth creation and business that creates employment that pays the taxes that pay for public services.”


Creative industries and their contribution to the economy

29 01 2008

The contribution of the creative industries to the UK economy is explored in a new research report from NESTA, Beyond the Creative Industries: mapping the creative economy in the United Kingdom. When policymakers and industry professionals can accurately measure this contribution to economic activity, they are better placed to communicate key concepts, share reliable data and make the case for greater investment. This report complements earlier studies (Creative Industry performance and London’s Creative Sector) and seeks to improve on the available data about the true extent of creative activity within the economy.

The wider European context will be explored in a study on unleashing talent and creativity in Europe, which was announced this month by the European Commission, following an informal meeting of representatives from the Member States’ Culture Ministries to discuss the potential of culture to boost jobs and growth.  The European Commissioner for Education, Training, Youth and Culture, Mr Ján Figel’, announced the creation of a group of experts from Member States and a group with civil society organisations from the creative and cultural industries. These task groups will to focus on unleashing the full potential of the cultural and creative industries, especially in small and medium sized enterprises, to help achieve the aims of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs.

New innovation briefings

7 01 2008

NESTA have recently published two Policy Briefings on Innovation goes global and Making innovative places:

Innovation goes global examines two converging trends: first, that the world is increasingly interlinked and interdependent, and second, that the balance of economic power is shifting away from the traditional ‘West’ towards countries such as China, India and Brazil. While the capacity to innovate is becoming increasingly important as traditional sources of competitive advantage become eroded, globalisation is also changing the way innovation happens. The skilled workforce is becoming more mobile, businesses may share knowledge with external partners as well as internationalising R&D activities.

As a consequence, deriving value from innovation increasingly depends on absorbing ideas as much as creating them, and centres of excellence are becoming more rare as they become more excellent. To make the most of this opportunity, the UK must focus its efforts on areas where it has a true competitive advantage and strive to maintain its status as a crossroads in the global network of knowledge.  This means supporting universities and businesses to collaborate internationally, and ensuring that the benefits from those activities reach the whole of the UK’s economy and society.

 Making innovative places develops the theme that place matters to innovation. Certain locations with a reputation for being “innovative places” attract the brightest and most creative people to produce new ideas and ways of working.  The briefing summarises findings from several larger studies that examine how to promote innovation in both urban and rural settings. These studies note that the presence of scale and choice, and local links with specialised innovation networks tends to drive local innovative capacity in cities.  Rural areas are less likely to have these advantages, so rural communities need to consider specialised approaches and also consider building closer linkages with urban areas. The research also suggests that regional agencies need to actively take part in a “regional innovation journey” that enables a region to create major change through a series of small achievable steps which build local innovation capacity. The report reviews typical stages in this process and offers advice on responding to the inevitable challenges that arise in the process.