Why innovation is key to business growth

Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
14th November 2022

Innovation is key to enhancing productivity and the government funded body at its heart-Innovation UK-is headquartered in Swindon.

Layla Burrows is Innovate UK’s Regional manager for the South West. 

Ian Mean, Gloucestershire director of Business West, which is the delivery partner for Innovate UK Edge in the South West, talked to her about the business challenges facing the South West.

I doubt that many businesses know how important Innovate UK is in terms of growing the economy and its role.

Layla Burrows is keen to dispel this and encourage more SMEs to take advantage of the huge benefits that Innovate can offer to businesses with good ideas.

IM: What are the key strengths of business in the South West?

“In my opinion, the South West is a fiercely independent region with some great businesses but I would encourage companies here to look at the collaborative opportunities outside the region and how they can expand across the UK and internationally.

“Unfortunately, we can often be seen to be quite inward looking.”

In Gloucestershire, there is talk of developing a specialist engineering cluster at Tewkesbury as well as the possibility of a sustainable aerospace cluster on Cotswold Airport at Kemble.

“The concept of creating clusters of excellence is very important to the work of Innovate UK in our forthcoming delivery plan”, says Layla Burrows.

“We are very interested in where activity is happening, what nascent clusters are emerging and how we can support the growth of these and connect our support nationally to locally.

“Where is the capability for adoption and diffusion of technologies? How can we connect them and encourage less competition amongst the regions?

“Every region will say they are at the forefront of net zero and hydrogen. We need to make sure we connect these conversations.

“The funding we will be delivering over the next three years will be predominantly targeted at two main areas-broadly health and wellbeing and net zero.”

As the country’s national innovation agency, Innovate UK annually spends £600m on encouraging the development of good ideas but companies must compete for the financial support and have their idea put under the microscope by independent assessors.

Does she think business in the South West is investing enough to be more productive?

“That’s a difficult question”, she says. “They could be investing more, and we do have a challenge to encourage private sector investment or investment from key Primes into innovation”.

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