19 October 2016

  |  CBI North East


Government has role to play in helping business innovate

The CBI Sarah Glendinning's views on why innovation is fundamental to UK prosperity 

Government has role to play in helping business innovate

Innovation is fundamental to UK prosperity – boosting job creation, investment and productivity – but government and industry need to keep pace with evolving practices and technologies to create the best environment to sustain it.

Businesses that bring on new products, processes and technologies become more productive, challenge existing business models, and grow quickly. The CBI is working to help create the conditions that enable more businesses to come up with new ideas, invest in research and development (R&D) and adopt new technologies.

And this year the CBI Annual Conference theme is Innovation, growth and prosperity in a world of disruption and includes speakers from some our region’s most innovative and disruptive businesses such as Atom.  While not a new phenomenon, the current speed and scale of disruption is unprecedented, and our 2016 Conference on the 21st November will look to the future and explore how it can be harnessed to enhance UK business growth and shared prosperity.

The UK’s innovation landscape comprises a world-class research base, as well as competitive strengths across a number of sectors, and one of the foremost digital economies. But by other measures we fare less well, trailing on both R&D spend – one of the key indicators of a country’s innovation ecosystem - and on the conversion of ideas into products. Moreover, once innovative new products and services do come to market, the UK too often lags behind in their diffusion across the economy.

Current CBI Innovation priorities include R&D investment, adoption of digital technology and disruptive business models. For example, the UK has a great environment for new ideas but invests less in research and development than its international competitors. We are campaigning to increase public and private investment in R&D to 3% of GDP, working with government to establish a roadmap to achieving this goal.

Digital technology is transforming how businesses operate along with wider society. From banking to farming, healthcare to retail, the digital opportunity extends to all sectors of our economy. Our network brings businesses together to learn from one another and explore how new technologies can be applied.

New technology has enabled firms to develop new business models and challenge existing ways of working. However, the regulatory environment is often slow to adapt to this change, restricting potential economic benefits brought about by challenger firms. Our access to government enables us to influence policies to help new businesses thrive.

And, just before the CBI Annual Conference, Venturefest North East, the north east innovation conference, will be held at St James’ Park on November 8th bringing together innovators from SME’s to large corporates to share ideas and inspire them to explore new opportunities. 

Encouraging business investment in the right tools, technologies, and partnerships can boost productive capacity and firms’ ability to innovate. Businesses are helping themselves through events such as the CBI Annual Conference and Venturefest North East, but Government has a role in creating the best conditions for fast-growing, dynamic businesses to thrive. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership to create those conditions all across the UK.

This column appeared in the journal on Tuesday 18th October 2016