In 2011, 37% of British firms were 'innovation active'. This means that they introduced a new product or process, participated in an innovative project, or initiated improved forms of organisation, business structure or marketing. But that leaves 63% of businesses who are not innovating - something that we can definitely improve upon.
The idea of innovation as an engine of growth for UK business is being championed by an increasing number of business leaders. Crucially, it creates unique areas of excellence in the UK which then drive further investment both domestically and from abroad. In 2011/12, inward investment projects in the UK led to over 110,000 jobs being created or safeguarded. And in 2011, earnings from investment in the UK by overseas companies increased to £43.6 billion - the highest since 2007.
We have some of the best brains in the world working in our academic institutions and industry. The UK has more enterprises in the high-tech knowledge-intensive service sector than any other EU country, and a 14% share of the world's most highly-cited scientific papers. It also ranks second in the world for university-industry collaboration, making it among the top destinations in the world to do research that helps grow businesses.
For these trends to continue, we need leaders of the future to be supported and for examples of exciting innovation to be shouted from the rooftops so investment continues to flow into the UK. Fortunately, when it comes to innovative products and services to talk about, we are spoiled for choice.
Projects currently being worked on with the support of the Technology Strategy Board include a space weather forecasting system (NERC), new treatments to heal wounds made out of stem cells from human hair (Avecia Biologics), a 25-year low-energy light bulb (Zeta Controls) and digital meeting technologies allowing participants to meet in 3D cyberspace (EPSRC/University of Nottingham). These are just a fraction of the exciting projects out there will change the way we live in the future.
To celebrate British innovation and facilitate networking amongst the best and brightest, businesses from the UK and abroad, Government, and academia will be coming together on the 11-13th March at Innovate UK in London. Around 4,000 people will network and do business, with British innovation at the core of the seminars, speeches and exhibition. If the demand so far is anything to go by, interest in greater discussion - and celebration - of what Britain's businesses have to offer is impressive.
Exhibitors will include Evrythng, a software engine that gives all physical objects an identity online - imagine a medicine bottle that reminds you when it's time to take your pills, or a power tool that connects you with DIY tips and tricks and lets you rent it out when you're not using it to others in your area. We'll also be hearing about new applications that will change our understanding of space. In the transport priority area, we'll hear from Wheelright, who have developed technology to detect the tyre pressure of vehicles across a whole fleet, potentially saving £1,000 per vehicle per year.
In total, there are eight priority areas that we believe have great potential in the global market: agrifood, digital, energy, future cities, health, high-value manufacturing, transport and space. These will all be represented at Innovate UK and we hope to see some really exciting deals coming out of them.
If you believe your business has the capacity to innovate, there is help available. The Technology Strategy Board offers assistance, both financial and through networks providing wider support, to give companies a kick-start. Or come along to Innovate UK to get a taste of the exciting future of British innovation in 2013.