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News - 19 May 2008

UK takes innovation for granted

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is preparing to tell the Prime Minister that Britain is too complacent about innovation and is likely to be out-stripped by emerging economies.

NESTA argues that the UK it is falling behind even in areas where it has some proven strengths in innovative product design and manufacture e.g. pharmaceuticals and aerospace.

A report on “total innovation” carried out by NESTA will be published tomorrow argues that the growth of high value added activities in countries like China and India is also nurturing increasing levels of home grown innovation.

It cites Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil and Japan as counties snapping at our heels in aerospace. Johathan Kestenbaoum – NESTA’s chief executive – questions the governments eagerness to see more money spent on research and development (R&D) and not enough on the wider issue of making UK businesses more innovative. He said “Total innovation is much more like acupuncture than surgery. It involves a much more integrated system wide approach”

The report argues that just being an attractive place for companies to locate their R&D departments is no longer sufficient. It urges firms to explore new business models and different commercial strategies and recognise “hidden innovation” which may lead to “micro improvements” that taken together will lead to a step change in the way things are done.


Part of the problem with “innovation” is that too many businesses think it is all about R&D done by men and women in white coats in laboratories.

Innovation can be applied at every level from the multi national pharmaceutical company to the local fish & chip shop. It is quite simply trying to find different ways to do things to deliver more profit.

The regional development agency – SEEDA – are currently consulting on a proposal to introduce Innovation Teams across the region. These would identify businesses at all stages of development that have the potential to grow through innovation and support their development with a range of specialist services.

Brighton & Hove and East Sussex have been identified as a geographical area that could benefit from such a team and SEEDA have asked for responses to their consultation paper by 28th may. Then sub-regional partners will be asked to submit formal applications to SEEDA to establish a team in their area.

The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership (BHEP) is hosting an informal meeting tomorrow for interested parties across the two local authorities to discuss the idea.


Click here to download SEEDA consultation paper on Innovation Teams

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