According to the government’s website the conference was the top trending hashtag on Twitter, overtaking Benedict Cumberbatch’s engagement or Christmas. An unusual way to measure the events popularity, but the message they are trying to get across is clear: people are excited about UK industry.
The event held on the 5th and 6th of November is being heralded as a success with over 3000 attendees including four members of parliament. This is the 8th Innovate UK conference since 2006, where it began with only a few hundred people. It now lasts two days and boasts a main stage and support stages; you’d be forgiven for thinking that Innovate UK was a music festival rather than a conference held to promote increasing UK exports and encouraging investment within the UK.
As the CEO of Innovate UK, Ian Gray, made clear in his opening address, the conference is the most important of its kind in the UK and it brings together business, research and government, a tri-force necessary for the changes that are needed to make UK industry stand out amongst its peers.
Business Secretary Vince Cable voiced his concern at the conference for the void that many potential UK start-ups fall into between having a great idea and getting it to market. He said that the UK is very good at science and invention – coming up with great ideas – but where it falls down in comparison to Germany, America and Korea is innovation, actually getting those ideas into production and recognised by the global market.
That’s not to say that the UK is without good number of success stories, some of which were present at Innovate. One of the keynote speakers was Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Smoothies, a UK start-up that has become a globally recognised brand, no doubt there to show how a simple, sharp idea can have global success. Reed said that a UK start-up has to ignore the statistics – that 60% of SME’s fail in their first 3 years – and go into business ‘blindly optimistic’ and with ‘a clear goal’ driving them.
Not solely relying on their hope that the bright-young-things in business and research will collide, the government also announced that they will be providing 67 million pounds of funding to boost the economy. This is to be split: with 50 million going to support emerging technologies and 17 million aimed at funding for industrial PHD’s.
For UK SME’s seeking that boost to get new ideas off of the ground, it won’t be until December 2014 that the detail of how these strategies will be implemented is clear and it won’t be until March 15 that the Catapult centres are up and running. However they could already be entitled to R&D tax credits, which remain as an important but often overlooked incentive in the government’s strategy to reinvigorate the economy.
It’s no secret that we’re heading into a critical time for the whole UK construction industry. It’s going to take an estimated 158,000 new jobs to hit the targets for infrastructure and housing needs...