Business & Innovation
The UK is a world-leader in innovation and university-business collaboration, and our comparative advantage derives from excellent research within our world-class universities.
Collaboration with business is a core part of our universities’ work, whether that be sharing knowledge and skills with local businesses, working on major research projects with multinationals or providing incubator space for innovative start-ups.
But Government could facilitate more innovation by opening up new funding and investment opportunities and providing a stable regulatory environment for partnerships to be developed.
Innovation funding and environment
Original, high-quality research within universities underpins innovation in the UK, so it is essential that funding for innovation comes in addition to, not at the expense of, the research budget.
Current public funding for innovation could be made more effective in order to get greater impact from our universities’ excellent research.
In particular, the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) results in an almost ten-fold return on investment and that return is even greater when focused on the most research-intensive universities. We support Sir Andrew Witty’s proposal to Government that the HEIF be increased to £250 million per year provided this is funded with new money. The cap limiting how much successful universities can receive should also be lifted.
The Government can also do more to facilitate private and business funding for innovation. At the moment, it is much harder to find ‘proof of concept’ and venture capital funding to take a research idea through to a final product or service in the UK than in the US.
It is important that the Catapult centres build on excellence in leading universities creating a strong link from research through to commercialisation.
Regulation and tax
A stable regulatory and tax system is essential to providing an environment where universities and businesses have the confidence to invest in long-term relationships.
Introducing regulation around university-business collaboration would be counter-productive, bringing unintended and negative consequences for businesses, investors and universities.
Government tax measures are valuable in supporting early stage companies to develop products and technologies to commercialisation and should be maintained. It would also be helpful for Government to consider how VAT legislation and guidance could be simplified to avoid hindering collaboration between universities and businesses.