Government unveils £150 million Technology Strategy

An action plan to increase innovation and help British businesses succeed in an increasingly competitive global market has been published today by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The plan, named ‘Competing in the Global Economy: The Innovation Challenge’ follows a wide-ranging review of innovation policy, led by Science Minister Lord Sainsbury. The report identifies the UK’s science base and track record in invention, but warns more needs to be done to exploit this for commercial benefit.

According to the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), the UK will find it increasingly hard to compete in the global market against countries with low labour costs. Future success will be won through the exploitation of new ideas, particularly in areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and information and communication technology.

The Innovation Report aims for the UK to be the leading country in Europe in terms of business, R&D and patenting within a decade. Proposals in the report made after wide consultation with businesses, academics, innovators and trade unions include a National Technology Strategy to provide a framework for policy priorities and focus support on innovation. The strategy will be underpinned by £150 million, including £90 million allocated for nanotechnology and funding released by the review of DTI business schemes.

Other proposals include an increased role for the Small Business Service to promote innovation and knowledge transfer. An Innovation programme will provide advisory services on Intellectual Property Rights, assistance with R&D Grants and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, as well as brokering collaboration between companies and Higher Education Institutes and alerting SMEs to public procurement opportunities.

‘For the economy as a whole, innovation is the key to higher productivity and greater prosperity for all,’ said Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. ‘We have already laid the foundations of an innovation-driven economy by creating a stable macroeconomic environment, boosting competition, promoting fair and free trade and improving education and skills.

‘But there is more to do. To hold our own in modern manufacturing we will need to innovate strongly by creating new high-tech manufacturing industries and upgrading traditional sectors such as steel and textiles. At the same time we need to raise the level of innovation in our service industries.’

Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury who led the review said: ‘We are increasing the funding by our Research Councils of scientific and engineering research from £1.3 billion in 1997-98 to nearly £3 billion by 2005-06. We now need to see a step change in our rate of innovation.’

The Report is said to recognise that innovation depends on the knowledge, skills and creativity of people at work. The Government’s Skills Strategy will reportedly equip the workforce for the innovation challenge and the Innovation Report sets out in detail DTI’s role in ensuring workers have the skills that business needs. A new CBI/TUC taskforce on innovation will also be set up.

Full copies of the Innovation Report – ‘Competing in the Global Economy: the Innovation Challenge’ are available <A HREF=’http://www.dti.gov.uk/innovationreport’>Here</A>

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