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Ian Brinkley
Economic Advisor

Making the UK a Global Innovation Hub: How business, finance and an enterprising state can transform the UK

Making the UK a Global Innovation Hub: How business, finance and an enterprising state can transform the UK

Prof Birgitte Andersen, Ian Brinkley, Will Hutton
08 September 2011

Without urgent co-ordinated action across government, business and finance, the UK faces a decade lost to stagnation. The government must act now to adopt a strategy of collaborative, entrepreneurial investment in those areas likely to bring the greatest dividends in growth and jobs.

This report argues that without major change the country faces stagnating living standards, mounting deprivation and a growing structural trade deficit. The government must work alongside business and finance to invest in the UK’s ability to take advantage of the enormous opportunities provided by emerging technologies, chiefly the digital and low-carbon economy, health science and healthcare, cyber security and virtual reality. These are today’s equivalents of the steam engine, electricity or the internet – the so-called "general purpose technologies" (GPTs) that change the world and drive growth and job creation. 

The UK must develop a fully functioning innovation and investment ecosystem over the next 15 years to seize the opportunity of exploiting this new wave of useful knowledge. Periods of economic stress are not naturally associated with booms in innovative activity. The task now is to create a network of institutions, processes and methodologies that will spur both the magic of innovation and the tough task of its development and commercialisation. The private sector cannot shoulder the unknowable risks associated with the wholesale rebasing of the UK economy, nor develop the appropriate architecture and networks alone. This requires the ongoing engagement of an enterprising state, harnessing the creative ability of both the private and public sector through open innovation. This cannot be done piecemeal. Britain needs to own this agenda and think big. Our first ideas for what could be done are set out in this paper.

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