UK Government Green Paper - Building our industrial strategy

The UK government has kicked off a consultation regarding the future of the prosperity of the UK economy with its green paper Building our Industrial Strategy. It says that it wants to ‘move beyond short-term thinking to focus on the big decisions which will deliver long-term sustainable success’.

The Green Paper, which can be found here, identifies three key challenges that need to be addressed to contribute to the nation’s success:

  • building on our strengths – while we are great at inventing, the UK is not-so-great at commercialising our innovations; 
  • improving productivity in the sectors in which the UK lags behind other countries; and 
  • making the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business.

    The strategy is based upon ten pillars:

    • science, research and innovation; 
    • skills development; 
    • infrastructure; 
    • business growth and investment; 
    • procurement; 
    • trade and investment; 
    • affordable energy; 
    • sectoral policies; 
    • driving growth across the whole country; and 
    • creating the right institutions.

    This is a public consultation and anyone with an interest may respond by the deadline of 17 April 2017.

    Intellectual property and commercialisation play a starring role in the draft strategy, under several of the pillars:

    Science, research and innovation

    Key technologies which have been identified for potential support include:

    • smart and clean technologies, including energy storage; 
    • robotics and AI; 
    • satellites and space; 
    • healthcare and medicine; 
    • manufufacturing processes and materials 
    • biotech; and 
    • digital, including supercomputing, advanced modelling, 5G and FinTech.

    Sir Mark Walport has been asked to consider the case for a new research institution for work on battery technology, energy storage and grid technology.

    A key objective is to improve the rate at which UK businesses successfully commercialise the discoveries and inventions which we are renowned for – “the UK has too often pioneered discovery, but not realised the commercial benefits”. Despite launching a “similar number of companies as US universities and substantially more than Japanese institutions when measured per unit of research funding”, the UK registers far fewer patents.

    While the UK has world class research universities “not one features in the Top 10 list compiled by Reuters covering innovation and commercialisation”, and only Imperial College (11) and Cambridge (25) rank in the top 25.

    The government plans to commission research on different institutions’ principles and practices on commercialisation of IP, including how they approach licensing IP and take equity in spin-outs to identify and spread best practice among university technology transfer offices.

    Another commitment is to review how to maximise the incentives created by the intellectual property system to stimulate collaborative innovation and licencing opportunities – including considering the opening up of registries to facilitate licensing deals and business-to-business model agreements to support collaboration. In addition the government will seek to harness the potential of ‘home grow inventors’ via the NESTA Challenge Prize Centre.

    There are also plans for IPO representatives to be in key UK cities.

    Business growth and investment

    The UK ranks as the third OECD nation for start-ups with 350,000 enterprises in 2014, but it ranks only thirteenth for the number of businesses which scale up successfully.

    The government is proposing several new initiatives, mainly around making access to funding easier, but IP will play a part within:

    • the Scaleup Institute; 
    • an entrepreneurship review to be carried out by Professor Tim Dafforn, Chief Entrepreneurial Advisor; and 
    • work with business schools and the Small Business Charter.


    A Small Business Research Initiative review will be led by David Connell. Proposals include “ensuring intellectual property is held by the party best placed to exploit it (which may often be the supplier).”

    Sector specific initiatives include:

    • Defence Innovation Initiative and the Defence Security Accelerator which “bring together a broad network of research institutions, innovation centres, SMEs, industry partners and allies”; and 
    • development of a strategic commercial unit within NHS England to explore commercial models that help innovators benefit from earlier market access in the healthcare sector.

       Click here for a copy of the Green Paper Building our Industrial Strategy

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