Coalition's challenge is turning money into innovation

The government has promised more cash to help push economic growth through innovation in the technology sector, though the earmarked amount  falls short.

Vince Cable and David Willetts launched the Innovation and Research Strategy which set out plans to support research and development for tech firms to help push growth.

This includes giving £75 million to the Technology Strategy Board in order to give companies better access to facilities and finance, so they can commercialise products after development. A further £25 million will also be given to help develop prototypes.

A new innovation vouchers scheme also gives SMEs access to free academic support from higher education institutions, strengthening links with industry at the same time. 

A prize fund in association with the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), will see £250,000 of investment a year to spur innovation.

The government has been making a lot of noise about supporting innovation recently. Graphene development was given a £50 million cash pot and the Tech City is at the forefront of government marketing.

Willetts was keen to hype up the potential of the new innovation strategy to spur growth through tech firms and innovation.

“Our new innovation and research strategy is the next step in ensuring the UK provides the best possible environment for entrepreneurs and innovators,” Willetts said. “A new innovation landscape, combined with continued investment and collaboration with business, will ensure the UK is a world leader in innovation.”

Despite a lot of back-slapping by the government, industry figures and opposition members are not necessarily putting the champers on ice.

Willletts promises science and engineering budgets are seeing increases, but opposition MPs and CaSE managing director Imran Khan highlighted concerns over the need for yet more funding.

Khan believes that, while any money put into developing the innovation sector is valuable, significantly more is needed if Willetts’ lofty goal of becoming a world leader in innovation is to be realised.

“In terms of supporting the innovation sector during an economic downturn it is critical for sustainable growth,” he told TechEye. “However many other governments including Germany, France and the US spend much more in comparison on research and development.  It is critical that the government addresses this.”

Khan thinks the money is a start, but what’s not clear is how “the government is going to turn it into a game changer.”

“We need investment on a bigger scale as it is not going to substantially change our economy and that is what we need right now,” he said.