The European Central Bank recently described innovation as: “The development and application of ideas and technologies that improve goods and services or make their production more efficient. A classic example of innovation is the development of steam engine technology in the 18th century. Steam engines could be put to use in factories, enabling mass production, and they revolutionised transport with the railways. More recently, information technology transformed the way companies produce and sell their goods and services, while opening up new markets and new business models.”
In this interview with the Telegraph online, Mike Price talks about the alarming number of companies who still don’t identify their work as innovation, and the potentially huge consequences this can have.
Many UK companies believe that innovation and research and development activity is focused on producing radical new products like the ‘invisibility cloak’ which featured in The Independent in 2015. Of course, we’ve yet to see an invisibility cloak on the high street. These kinds of investments attract media attention but don’t reflect the kind of activity carried out by many companies to deliver innovation which attract new customers and grow their businesses. Most investment in innovation is invisible. It’s found in advances to key components in lighting devices, in software development to aid brain scan assessments or developments in integrated storage and materials handling systems.
This invisible investment in practical R&D is just the kind of activity which the government is desperate to encourage. Philip Hammond has promised an additional £2.3bn of support to large and small companies to help. Yet of the more than 5.7million UK businesses only 44,000 have, for example, taken up R&D tax incentives.