London, UK The government is to invest £150million to boost innovation in British business. A National Technology Strategy is to provide a framework for policy priorities and focus support on innovation includes £90 million allocated for nanotechnology and funding released by the review of DTI business schemes.
A report, 'Competing in the Global Economy: The Innovation Challenge', identifies the UK's science base and track record in invention, but warns more needs to be done to exploit this for commercial benefit.
It predicts that the UK will find it increasingly hard to compete in the global market against countries with low labour costs. Future success, says the report, 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 major country in Europe in terms of business research and development and patenting within a decade. Proposals in the report include new government procurement guidelines to make government a more 'intelligent customer' by encouraging innovation through the £109billion it spends each year on products and services.
There will be 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.
There is to be an effort to increase the rate of knowledge transfer and level of interaction between science and business.
Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said, “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.”
Other proposals include pilot projects in which the Department of Health will promote innovative hospital design and greater uptake of telecare and telemedicine technologies.
Regional Science and Industry Councils are also to be set up and high-tech clusters supported while the Patent Office is to target SMEs in a major awareness-raising programme on intellectual property (IP), and will develop a national strategy for dealing with IP crime.
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 £1.3bn in 1997-98 to nearly £3bn by 2005-06. We now need to see a step change in our rate of innovation.”