Science and innovation represent the future of our economies

Ambassador Fiona Clouder delivered speech at innovation networking reception held in Santiago, Chile.

Good evening,

Minister Céspedes, Eduardo Bitrán, Vice-President of Corfo, Patricio Feres, Executive Director of InnovaChile, our guests of honour, government representatives, business leaders and academics, present this evening.

Welcome to the Residence for this Innovation Networking event to celebrate the recently launched $3 million USD Corfo-InnovateUK Experimental Development Call supporting UK-Chile innovation projects through the Newton-Picarte Fund in the sectors of Solar Energy, Agrifoods and Sustainable Mining.

Why is innovation important? The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne recently made a major speech on economic policy, delivered from the Innovation Hub of Imperial College, in London. He said that that location “didn’t just represent the future of science in the world, it represents the future of our economy. World beating science and innovation turned into commercial application.” And that is what innovation is about. It is important for the economy of the UK. It is important for the economy of Chile.

A very interesting report recently issued by the Royal Academy of Engineering, ‘Investing in Innovation’, discusses the role of Governments in stimulating innovation, which advance our economies, social and cultural well being, and health. The capability and capacity to innovate is the way to prosper in the 21st century.

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency, working with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will help grow the economy. Since 2007, Innovate UK has helped more than 5000 innovative companies, with projects adding £7.5 billion to the UK economy, and creating 35 000 extra new jobs. It is great that Innovate UK is working with Corfo here in Chile, to encourage innovation in partnership.

Just under 18 months ago Minister Céspedes and I signed a very important agreement to bring together UK and Chile funding partners in the creation of the Newton-Picarte Fund for science and innovation. This collaboration, thanks to the vision, commitment and hard work of both our UK and Chile funding partners, has now blossomed into a long-term partnership.

As we reach the half-way point of this partnership we can celebrate proudly the launch of nearly 20 joint funding calls, the signing of soon to be 8 institutional collaboration agreements, and the funding of 49 projects in our first year alone; 50% of which are rooted within regional territories beyond Santiago, a number which will soon be set to double as we approach the latter half of our second year.

These numbers clearly demonstrate that we have achieved a lot in a short space of time. Let us not forget however, that behind each of these funding initiatives, are real people, all contributing towards a thriving science and innovation system and knowledge-based society.

Together, through the Fundación de Innovación Agraria and Innovate UK partnership, we have provided 10 Young Innovators with vital business capacity building, UK mentoring and seed-funding to pilot their innovation projects.

Together, through Fondef and the British Council, we have supported large-scale science and technology R&D projects in areas such as water management, algae and aquaculture, each with business investment.

And together, we are here today at this innovation networking gathering, exploring this tremendous opportunity to bring together UK and Chilean businesses in the experimental development of innovative prototypes in three key sectors of mutual importance for both our countries: Solar Energy, Agrifoods and Sustainable Mining. An opportunity that was created in partnership by Corfo and InnovateUK.

These are but a few examples. Above and beyond the Newton Fund, the UK Government recognises that innovation and science have a key role to play in answering many of our biggest multilateral challenges. Many areas of experimental research, such as the development of new or improved products in the agricultural industry or renewable energy technology, or new sustainable processes in the extraction of natural resources, have global benefits. The UK Government remains firmly committed to a leading role in the development of research and innovation worldwide.

As Jo Johnson, our Science Minister said last week “Science is vital to our prosperity and security. That’s why we will protect the science budget in real terms this Parliament. “ The Chancellor made a number of related announcements, in our Government Spending Review including: a new £1.5 billion Global Challenges fund, a £5 billion investment in health research and development, and a reaffirmed commitment to long term science and innovation capital investment of £6.9 billion between 2015-2021.

In the UK our Catapult centres play an important part in innovation. These bring together businesses and researchers to collaboratively solve key problems and develop new products and services, on a commercial scale. There are Catapult centres in High Value Manufacturing, Offshore Renewable Energy, Cell Therapy, Satellite Applications, Transport Systems, Future Cities, Digital, Energy Systems, Precision Medicine, and Medicine Technologies.

I should also say that as St. Andrews Day was celebrated earlier this week, the Scottish Government has recently announced that 2016 will be the year of Innovation, Architecture and Design with a series of exciting events to promote Scotland’s achievements in these areas.

Just yesterday, at COP21, the UN Climate Change Conference, the Prime Minister announced that the UK will join ‘Mission Innovation’. This is a flagship international initiative which aims to accelerate clean energy investment and innovation, to provide reliable and affordable energy for all. President Bachelet also announced that Chile will join the initiative, the only South American country to do so, showing its leadership in the region.

I am delighted that our Science and Innovation partnership with Chile is going from strength to strength, helped by the success of the Newton-Picarte Fund. Chile’s investment in innovation has increased exponentially over the last decade. We look forward to further collaboration, with Corfo and our other Chilean partners, to contribute to the productivity, innovation and growth agenda.

I encourage you all to share your thoughts, experiences and innovative ideas with each other this evening.

Thank you.