What the Innovation Strategy means for tech scaleups

Tech Nation, July 22, 2021 3 min read

Today, the Government has published its Innovation Strategy. The aim is to retain and cement the UK’s position as one of the world’s leaders in innovation, research and science.

We know that investment in these three key areas are crucial to the UK’s success in the tech sector. It supports the development of new knowledge and technologies. It allows businesses to be created from this knowledge and these technologies. And it encourages existing businesses to develop, improve and compete.

Innovation at its best is about partnership between the public sector and the private sector. That has been made very obvious during the pandemic, with government, academia and business working together to develop vaccines and to clear a path out of lockdowns.

Public-private partnership and innovation is foundational to our work at Tech Nation, and indeed to the continued success of UK tech scaleups. Working with the Government, we have built the growth platform for scaleups in the UK, supporting over 3,000 businesses (including 12 unicorns) and contributing over £500m in Gross Value Add to the UK economy. This has been recognised by private sector investors and businesses. For instance, Index Ventures has just announced an additional $3.1 billion in funds to support tech businesses, including scaleups.

The Innovation Strategy, and the measures announced in it, will support tech scaleups in the following ways.

Attracting the best innovative talent

People are the drivers of innovation, and the Strategy acknowledges that only by having access to and attracting the best people can the UK be a leader in innovation.

To support this, the Government is announcing two new visa routes: High Potential Individual and scaleup. The Government is also planning to reintroduce the Innovator route. These routes, among other, will have reduced bureaucracy to support increased applications. For instance, companies with more than 20% average annual revenue or employment growth will be able to secure visas for recipients of job offers outside of the usual sponsorship process.

This is in addition to the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa in digital technology, which supports the world’s best digital technology talent to come to the UK. These changes will support scaleups to attract and retain the best people, and to continue on their growth journey.

Making research institutions business friendly

Public-private partnerships are crucial to support innovation, and the new Innovation Strategy aims to improve the business friendliness of R&D institutions, such as universities.

To do this, the Government is investing £25m in a Connecting Capability Fund to support collaboration between business and research institutions, as well as £59m in Prosperity Partnerships to run business-led research projects. This will support scaleups, among others, to work with universities and other research institutions to innovate and grow.

Access to finance for innovation

Funding options to pursue innovation, particularly R&D led innovation, is often confusing and opaque. The government’s Innovation Strategy announces that an ‘Innovation Hub’ will run alongside the already established ‘Finance Hub’ to support understanding of and access to this finance. This will support scaleups to tie their innovation goals to their funding needs.

Priority technologies and sectors

The Innovation Strategy identifies seven technologies that are considered a priority for protecting the UK’s position as a leader in science, research and innovation. These are: Advanced materials and Manufacturing; AI, Digital and Advanced Computing; Bioinformatics and Genomics; Engineering Biology; Electronics, Photonics and Quantum; Energy and Environment Technologies; and Robotics and Smart Machines.

Further, the government has announced an investment of £200m through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to support scaleup funding for UK life science businesses.

Tech scaleups in these sectors will be particularly well placed to benefit from the measures included in the Innovation Strategy.

Innovation is one of the keys to scaleup success. Tech Nation welcomes the publication of this strategy, and we will work with the UK’s tech scaleups to make the most of it.

Gerard Grech, Tech Nation’s Founding Chief Executive, said:

“Innovation is indispensable in any economy, but it is at the heart of the UK’s tech success. Our UK tech scaleup credentials show what is possible with incredible innovation – the UK has more than 100 tech unicorns and a dozen decacorns. We’re excited about what iterative and imaginative innovation will bring to the UK’s future economy.

“We welcome an innovation strategy that will future proof the UK economy by accelerating digital transformation, improving productivity and levelling up in traditional industries, as well as encouraging disruptive innovation that will transform and create new industries.”