UK Innovation Strategy a Pot of Gold for Early-Stage Businesses

The UK Government’s recently released innovation strategy has outlined a range of measures being introduced to ensure the country reaches its 2035 goal of becoming a truly “global hub for innovation”.

The new strategy, which is fundamental to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, is set to provide early-stage companies, start-ups and investors with limitless opportunities.

Key actions of the government centre around fuelling businesses which want to innovate; guaranteeing there is talent across the country; ensuring there are institutions and organisations to facilitate innovation; and setting up Missions that have clear goals on specific areas of innovation.

For investors, the government has recognised they need the support and network of knowing what to invest, where to invest and who to invest in amongst what can be a complex, fast-moving system.

Subsequently, UK Finance has announced new training to upskill the “next generation of lenders” to improve investors’ understanding of business innovation, support their ability to assess risk when lending to these businesses and informing investors of the different forms of finance available.

The Department of International Trade (DIT) will also be undertaking R&D promotion activities, with plans to grow the DIT High Potential Opportunities Programme, to showcase 24 new opportunities to overseas investors in the emerging technologies and innovative sub-sectors across all the UK.

The opportunities for investors looking into the UK are numerous and we can expect to see massive investment into key sectors, which sophisticated investors and the retail market can piggyback.

For companies the strategy is focusing on four of the most important areas for early-stage companies – funding, intellectual property, research and bringing technologies to market.

The government will continue to seek additional investment in innovation, building on the work of the British Business Bank which has already supported the provision of £42 billion worth of finance to 170,000 small and medium-sized businesses across the UK.

But again, this is more than just London for the government. Under the British Business Bank, regional initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse Project and Midlands Engine Investment Fund have also been earmarked for further growth.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Innovation Agency, Innovate UK, is developing an online Innovation Hub to all businesses to navigate the regional/national funding on offer.

In such a tech-focused world, the most important asset of an early-stage company is usually their IP. And this is why the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will be expanding its IP education programme so that more companies can fully leverage their IP to commercialise their ideas.

Already in the works, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have developed ‘Secure Innovation’ which will provide practical steps for start-ups and growing companies on how best to protect their IP.

All of this however means nothing without having the ability to bring these technologies and companies to market, which is why the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub will be expanding its work on supporting the UK’s brightest technology and engineering entrepreneurs through equity-free funding, mentorship and coaching.

There is no question that this initiative should bring more success stories like North-East England based Wootzano – a robotics company developing highly dexterous robotics systems. The Enterprise Fellowship Programme has allowed Wootzano to raise £2.6 million in follow-on funding and recently sign a contract worth over £300 million.

The government’s key message throughout the Innovation Strategy is “levelling up” and that means ensuring research & development opportunities across the UK, not just London to benefit both investors and companies.

The result of this goal is partnering with universities across the UK who can pool their expertise and collectively improve the way they engage with the investment community.

The Connecting Capability Fund (CCF), is supporting a number of regional commercialisation initiatives, including the Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA); the Northern Accelerator (in the North-East); and Northern Gritstone.

This £125 million initiative is encouraging universities in England to collaborate in research commercialisation which has already resulted in the launch of various spinouts much to investor joy.

Across the UK, R&D interventions are being tailored to the different needs of different places and the government hopes to develop more proposals on how to best do this learning from the success of the Strength in Places Fund (SIPF).

The government as part of the UKRI’s SIPF has committed to investing £127 million, backed by a further £110 million from private firms and research organisations, in five major projects that will develop R&D capacity and support local growth – in various economies – manufacturing, agri-tech and the creative economy.

Overall, the government has made its intentions clear; to show the world that the entire UK is a technological powerhouse that offers enormous value to collaborators and investors.

As the UK hopes to reach its 2035 goal, maximising local societal and economic impacts of research and innovation investments and infrastructure, and fostering greater collaboration between decision-makers at national, devolved and local levels are top of the agenda.

Shadow Foundr will continue to monitor all opportunities arising from the Government’s Innovation Strategy, and we see some very fruitful years ahead for both companies and investors alike.

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