UK Science and Innovation: commercial benefits of innovating in the UK

Published 26 March 2014

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1. Foreword

1.1 Rt. Hon. David Cameron, Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party

The UK is proud to be at the forefront of the global race in science and innovation. Our comprehensive and efficient science and innovation system provides a range of attractive investment, and research and development (R&D) for hi-tech companies from around the world. Coupled withour open business environment, we believe this is crucial for the UK to continue leading the charge for growth in the EU and beyond.

Sustained investments by the government in the UK innovation system have ensured we remain at the forefront of international development capability.But a system is only as powerful as the fuelthat feeds it. We have identified a group of key technologies for targeted funding to boost their productivity and accelerate global growth – some established success stories, and some future industries. These form part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

Collaboration across borders increases the quality of research and opens up new markets for innovative companies. The UK is a uniquely favourable market for science and innovation collaboration – as recent high-profile investments from global corporations such as Huawei and Siemens show. With centres of science and innovation excellence across the country, the UK is an accessible and open melting pot of cross-discipline capability.

2. Commercial proposition

The UK’s welcoming business environment is the natural choice for large-scale investment in innovation. By investing billions of pounds each year in the UK’s science and innovation ecosystem, the world’s leading companies secure both a strong return on investment and a commercial advantage in their respective sectors.

These companies include:

  • Ford
  • Pfizer
  • Airbus
  • Huawei
  • Eli Lilly
  • Nokia
  • Eisai

The commercial benefits of the UK’s science, innovation and engineering infrastructure for international businesses and entrepreneurs include:

  • access to an established academic and research environment
  • a system of protecting intellectual property
  • measurement and standards systems that support innovation
  • tax and incentives support for innovation
  • skilled employees
  • stable business and investment environment

3. Components for innovation success

3.1 A world class academic and research environment

Collabrative innovation projects in the UK are popular amongst international companies. They benefit from the expertise and leading-edge technologies available in the UK’s academic and research environment.

The UK has globally-renowned research universities, such as:

  • Oxford
  • Cambridge
  • Imperial College London

UK universities are at the forefront of working in partnership with similar establishments throughout Europe on collaborative innovation projects. This would enable UK-based companies to access and benefit from the full range of European university expertise.

3.2 A system of protecting intellectual property

International companies seeking to commercialise their innovation activities benefit significantly from the UK’s world-class intellectual property system. It provides strong protection for new ideas, concepts and developments.

The UK complies with all the main international agreements on intellectual property rights. The UK works closely with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the European Union (EU) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The key organisation responsible for overseeing intellectual property rights in the UK is the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

3.3 Globally recognised measurements and standards system supporting innovation

The UK has a strong track record for scientific measurement.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is a leading centre of excellence. It develops and applies the most accurate measurement standards and, science and technology available. Each year NPL works directly with over 2,400 companies to deliver more than £630 million of financial benefits through measurement innovation.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is based in the UK and is one of the largest providers of standards in the world. BSI is at the forefront of shaping new industry standards globally in areas such as:

  • management systems
  • governance
  • anti-bribery
  • financial services

3.4 Tax and incentives support for innovation

The UK has a business-friendly tax environment. The UK government is lowering the rate of corporation tax to 20% in 2015. It will be joint lowest in the G20. The current corporation tax rate is 21%.

International companies involved in innovation activities can benefit from additional reductions in corporation tax through:

  • the patent box intitative which reduces corporation tax on profits earned from patents to 10%
  • enterprise zones which are specific locations across the UK that offer enhanced tax incentives
  • the UK’s research and development tax credit scheme

The UK also provides a wide range of government-funded grants that support all stages of the innovation process, from initial concepts through to commercialisation.

More information about the Enterprise Zones across England , Wales and Scotland

3.5 Skilled employees

The UK has a business friendly labour market with:

  • a skilled workforce
  • a flexible market
  • regulations to protect employees

Companies involved in UK based innovation activities have access to a strong supply of specialist scientific skills.

The UK has 170 universities and higher education institutions with the highest number of graduates in Europe.

3.6 A proven business and investment environment

The UK is one of the world’s leading business locations and attracts more international investment than any other country in Europe.

International businesses recognise the clear commercial value that a UK presence adds to their operations.

4. UK innovation opportunities

The UK’s science and innovation environment offers international companies commercial opportunities to develop their products and services. This includes:

  • eight great technologies
  • innovation led technologies

5. Eight great technologies

The following eight technology areas have been prioritised in the UK for concentrated government and commercial support.

5.1 Big data

The UK has one of the largest ICT markets in Europe with strengths in:

  • the adoption of new technologies
  • innovation
  • design

There are also opportunities emerging from big data. This is large and complex data that is difficult to process through traditional methods.

5.2 Satellites

The UK government’s ‘Space Innovation and Growth Strategy’ has the target of growing the UK space sector to £40 billion by 2030.

5.3 Robotics and autonomous systems

The UK is at the forefront of global developments in autonomous systems and robotics. International companies can benefits from the UK’s skills in software programming and data handling.

5.4 Synthetic biology

The UK has the advantage of future research opportunities in synthetic biology. This will benefit a wide range of industrial sectors including:

  • chemicals
  • materials
  • biosensors
  • biofuels
  • healthcare

5.5 Advanced materials

The UK has global strength in manufacturing and materials. This includes:

  • developing new high-performance composites and nanomaterials
  • finding additional uses and production methods for steel and ceramics

5.6 Agri-science

UK innovations in agri-science and technology are meeting the ongoing challenge of improving global production levels.

5.7 Regenerative medicine

The UK offers strong innovation in regenerative medicine and stem cells. This is through:

  • a world-class clinical trials infrastructure
  • strong government research funding
  • an established regulatory framework

5.8 Energy Storage

The UK has innovation expertise in the key areas of mobile, small-scale and grid-scale energy storage technology solutions. It has applications across multiple sectors including:

  • automotive
  • aerospace
  • infrastructure
  • renewables
  • portable computing
  • medical
  • leisure
  • defence

6. Innovation-led technologies

The UK’s innovation in technologies offers a range of opportunities in different areas.

6.1 Creative industries

The UK is home to global market leaders in:

  • fashion
  • TV
  • film
  • architecture
  • design
  • advertising
  • digital games

These all benefit from a strong pool of innovative talent and skills.

6.2 Energy

£110 billion of investment opportunities by 2020 have been identified in low‑carbon electricity generation and transmission in the UK.

6.3 Transport

The UK is a centre for technological innovation and commercialisation in:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • marine
  • rail

6.4 Life sciences, healthcare and biosciences

The UK has a strong life sciences sector with expertise in:

  • drug discovery
  • clinical translation
  • regenerative medicine
  • synthetic biology

6.5 Future cities

The global market for integrated citywide solutions is expected to be worth £200 billion by 2030. UK based companies are leading innovative developments in this area.

7. Research and development (R&D)

7.1 Research councils

Research Councils provide:

  • research
  • infrastructure
  • high-level skills
  • knowledge transfer

These strengths promote innovation across the UK.

The UK has seven research councils. They have a £3 billion research budget that covers a full range of academic subjects. The seven research councils are:

  • biotechnology and biological sciences research council
  • medical research council
  • science and technology facilities council
  • engineering and physical sciences research council
  • natural environment research council
  • arts and humanities research council
  • economic and social research council

The research councils offer a range of funding opportunities and international collaborations.

7.2 Universities

The UK has more than 170 universities and higher education institutions.

International companies can have access to:

  • leading scientists
  • next generation facillities and technologies
  • innovation and engineering projects

Funding is available from the European Union (EU) including:

  • research grants
  • regeneration programmes

7.3 Technology strategy board

The technology strategy board (TSB) is the UK’s innovation agency. It is responsible for a wide range of innovation programmes and mechanisms to support businesse, these include:

  • knowledge transfer partnerships
  • knowledge transfer networks
  • the collaborative research and development programme
  • smart awards and innovation vouchers

An opportunity for international companies is the Catapult Programme. Catapult is a network of new elite technology and innovation centres designed to transform research rapidly into commercial success.

The Catapult centres each focus on a specific area of technology and expertise including:

  • high value manufacturing
  • cell therapy
  • offshore renewable energy
  • satellite applications
  • connected digital economy
  • future cities
  • transport systems

The programme represents a long-term investment that will open up global opportunities for the UK and generate economic growth for the future.

Read more about the technology strategy board and catapult.

8. Help from UKTI

UKTI can help overseas companies looking to access the UK’s science and innovation environment by offering a number of free services. Help includes:

  • detailed guidance
  • assessing financial assistant
  • selecting the best location
  • support for entrepreneurs

UKTI works with the UK’s Science and Innovation Network (SIN). SIN is based in 28 countries and works to:

  • form collaborations between UK and international partners
  • build international technology partnerships and investment in research and innovation
  • impact science and innovation policies
  • improve UK policy based on opportunities and challenges

9. Contact UKTI for help

UKTI can provide overseas companies and investors with more information about opportunities in the UK.

Enquiries for overseas companies looking to set up in the UK


Contact form https://www.contactus....

Telephone: +44 (0)207 000 9012

Overseas companies can contact the Investment Services Team for information about setting up in the UK including the help that is available.