Firms need more help to gap into innovation

A joint report from the TUC and The Work Foundation warns that the
Government’s £1.25bn science strategy to boost productivity will fail unless
more is done to help business tap into innovation.

The report, Networking know-how: technology transfer and the UK productivity
gap, the first in a programme of work on UK manufacturing and productivity,
urges employers here to learn from best practice abroad, especially from the US
and Germany.

It calls for regional networks of technology transfer, such as those in
operation in the US and rest of Europe, to be developed in the UK.

Rebecca Harding, the report’s author and chief economist at The Work
Foundation, said there needs to be more co-ordination between academic research
and development projects and business.

She said: "Current government policy has gone some way towards
correcting the historic misconception that investment in research and
development leads directly to higher productivity, but it hasn’t managed to
plug the gap between scientific invention and entrepreneurial application.

"We need widespread recognition that the relationship between our
scientists, universities and businesses is a complex one that has to be
conducted at a regional level if it is to be successful," she added.

TUC general secretary, John Monks, believes that the UK’s Regional
Development Agencies need to play a more central role in ensuring innovative
ideas are adopted in practice.

"This is the key area for the next stage of the UK’s innovation
policy," he said. "We cannot import wholesale a system from abroad,
but we do need to be looking to the rest of Europe and the US for successful
regional networks.

"England’s Regional Development Agencies and the UK’s devolved
institutions look perfectly placed to be the hub of technology transfer

By Quentin Reade

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