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 networks."