Will Hutton chaired a debate on innovation at the Labour party conference for the Big Innovation Centre. The event was entitled: Its innovation stupid: is the strategy for growth working? The panel included representatives from the Big Innovation Centre, GuildHE, Google and Andrew Miller MP. Mr Miller is MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston and chair of the Science and Technology select committee.
Will Hutton said:
“I still don’t think the conversation in Britain is as serious as it should be about economic options”
He indicated that the current economic downturn is set to continue until 2014, which will be six years of reduced output. Hutton indicated that “You have to go back to the 1870s and 1880s to find as long a period of reduced output.”
The chair asked the central question: what is the good society and how can it be achieved?
The Guardian Media Group, Google, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline are all supporters of the Big Innovation Centre forming a significant network of companies that support their aims and objectives.
Professor Birgitte Andersen, the Director of the Big Innovation Centre said:
“Innovation is key to government’s growth strategy, but we are concerned that it is falling off the agenda.”
She said that only 15% of the spending agenda goes on low carbon and green technology. This has to increase to boost innovation and the wider economy
She also indicated that intellectual publishing rights were holding back growth and innovation. This is evident in the Apple v Samsung case.
Professor Andersen said that the digital economy was also crucial to innovation and economic growth, but added: “there is no protocol from government about how to solve these problems.”
Businesses, banks, higher education institutions and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) need to work together to achieve growth.
Sarah Hunter from Google said that the internet could be truly transformative to our innovation, but that is only 20 years old so has much room for greater development.
She added that “SMEs that are heavily web dependent could be the engines of our economy.”
The fact internet policy still falls under DCMS not the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was criticised, as the internet is now used for so much more than communication.
Ms West also suggested that all public procurement should be done online, including where possible local government as well as central.
Andy Westwood, the chief executive of GuildHE said:
“This isn’t just about building big science. It’s about a switch to open innovation and supply & demand driving innovation.”
He also said that industrial policy is now something all parties broadly share following the change from Regional Development Agencies to Local Enterprise Partnerships.
He concluded by saying that as a user and framer of innovation the state anchors how things are procured, developed, delivered. He used examples such as the Ministry of Defence, the BBC and the National Health Service.
Andrew Miller MP, chair of science and technology select committee spoke of the clear need to invest more in research and development at a time of recession. He mentioned the German model of Fraunhofers which are knowledge transfer research houses. He was also hopeful of a new chemistry innovation centre to be announced soon.
He also mentioned the success of Daresbury which was established in 2006 as a science and innovation campus in Cheshire. This has shown regional and innovative growth supported by government and crucially away from London and the South East.