Innovate UK supports the development of new approaches in a range of technologies including advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, digital, electronics, sensors, biosciences, quantum, and advanced computing.
Business innovation is the commercially successful application of ideas. We all see it in the new or improved products, services, processes and business models provided by companies that enhance our lives.
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. We exist to help companies in any part of the UK grow through innovation. We are a key delivery body for the government’s innovation strategy, UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it.
We support businesses through a range of interventions. We help them to find the right partners so they can innovate more effectively. We help them find access to the right expertise and equipment. We help them with the financial resources and investment needed, through grants and loans that we provide, and by connecting them to the wider community of investors.
Our approach is laid out in our Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation, 2021 to 2025. It describes our priorities, our five themes and our strong foundations.
We focus our main activities in the following five strategic themes:
- future economy – what the UK economy will be like in the future
- growth at scale – how companies can grow and scale up
- global opportunities – helping build new supply chains, positioning UK companies as the partners of choice and attracting inward investment
- ecosystem – working with partners to ensure our system offers excellent support for business innovation
- government levers – helping government support business innovation through procurement, standards, codes, regulation and other levers.
We will focus on opportunities for the future economy.
To understand what the UK economy could be like in future, we look at the trajectory of global markets, the likely evolution of technology, and important societal issues and trends.
To help realise the opportunities we will run programmes in five areas.
Net zero plus
We will help the UK achieve a net-zero carbon economy in 2050 and better protect the environment. We will invest in green energy, reducing the impact of materials and processes, better processes for agriculture and food production, and helping companies with heavily capitalised infrastructure.
Health and wellbeing
We will support healthy life in the UK and beyond. We will invest to tackle ill-health, enhance wellbeing, and improve diet and food.
We will help UK companies deploy technologies more effectively in their businesses, with a focus on the seven technology families of particular UK strength and opportunity identified in the government’s innovation strategy and on next generation digital technologies.
Horizon scanning and foresight
We will look ahead to what comes next, in markets, societal trends and technology.
We will help the government to identify and deliver important mission programmes.
Growth at scale
We will support businesses to grow rapidly. We are focusing on helping companies grow and scale through innovation.
Our focus is on the capability and talent of people within companies and supporting their development. It is also about providing expert support to help companies overcome challenges and create opportunities for growth. We aim to ease their access to markets and to the finance (for example, grants, loans and equity) they need to grow.
We will help businesses to succeed on the international stage.
We will encourage UK companies to participate in innovation activities across national boundaries, helping them build and participate in the supply chains of the future.
We will work to position the UK as the partner country of choice for global collaborations, working alongside the relevant government departments such as the:
- Department for International Trade
- Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We will support innovation projects that help tackle global challenges and achieve the UN Foundation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
We will make it easier to gain innovation support.
We will help enhance further the UK’s outstanding innovation ecosystem, to ensure that it is agile, inclusive and easy to navigate. This ecosystem is made up of many actors, from public agencies to businesses, academia, infrastructure, charities, and the regulatory environment.
A key part of this will be our work with partners to ensure good signposting to those bodies best placed to help. We will make it easier to find and access the right equipment and expertise, and encourage a national culture of innovation.
We will help the government use its power to support innovation.
The UK government is committed to helping businesses located here to innovate more successfully.
We will help them to deliver on that commitment, through supporting their work on public sector procurement, standards, regulation and in intellectual property. We will deliver managed innovation programmes on behalf of government departments.
Our strong foundations are fundamental to each of the priority themes. They are UK assets that can be leveraged in support of business innovation or values we hold to be true to inform our work. We run programmes in these areas so that businesses and society can derive the maximum benefit.
There are six strong foundations:
- UK science and research – maximising innovation benefit to UK business
- design – creating more value through deploying excellent design earlier
- responsible innovation – ensuring wider societal impacts are taken into account
- innovation talent and skills – enhancing people’s capability
- equality, diversity and inclusion – being inclusive and fair, and bringing in under-represented groups
- place and levelling up – building and benefitting from local strengths.
Science and research strengths
We will help UK businesses benefit from the excellent research base.
The quality and quantity of UK research is second to none. With 1% of the world’s population and 3% of global research and development (R&D) spend, we produce 14% of the world’s most cited academic papers. We have four of the top 10 universities in the world.
We will help the output of researchers to find its way to market, and UK companies to benefit from it.
We will help businesses make better use of design.
Companies that make use of excellent human-centred design create products and services that are more successful commercially. Their customers are more satisfied and they create more shareholder value. Yet too few companies use design optimally and they often use it rather late in the innovation process.
We will support companies to use human-centred design earlier in the innovation process, where it can add most value.
We will use responsible innovation to take account of wider societal impacts.
There is no such thing as good or bad technology. What matters is how it is used or misused. An innovation is most successful when it is accepted and adopted by all actors in the value chain. This includes suppliers, customers, shareholders and wider society. It requires responsible behaviour by innovating companies and by users of a technology.
We will help companies to think through the potential effects of their proposed innovation on wider society, and how they might achieve the benefits of their innovation and avoid or mitigate possible downsides.
Innovation talent and skills
We will help businesses enhance the capability of their people.
Innovation is difficult. Growing a company is difficult. Having a brilliant idea or a great technology is only part of the picture. The company needs the right team, with the right talent and skills.
We will help companies develop the capability of their people to grow and scale their businesses more effectively, and help them identify skills they will need in the future to adopt and deploy new technologies.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
We will be inclusive and fair, and bring in under-represented groups.
It is important for the UK that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to contribute to our national innovation activity. Sadly, not all groups are equally represented currently. This is wrong for them and also wrong for business. All the data shows that diverse companies make better decisions and are more successful.
We will encourage the participation in UK innovation of those of all backgrounds.
Place and levelling up
We will help build local strengths and help businesses benefit from them.
Everything happens somewhere and the UK has strong innovation capabilities in multiple places across the UK. The opportunity exists to make better use of our local business, research and innovation strengths as part of our national capability.
We will also help build innovation capacity more widely in places across the UK, to support local economies and help businesses to benefit from this.
In each of our work areas, we help companies, through three strands of activity:
- inspire – to make the opportunity visible and compelling
- involve – to bring relevant organisations and people together
- invest – to convene the resources needed, including our own.
We work with leading innovators, industry bodies, academia and our own in-house experts to make opportunities visible, inspire, through blogs, publications and the scope of our investment competitions. Our involve work centres around businesses in the first instance, and this is amplified through working with our partners. Our work with the investment community makes our invest work more impactful.