Manufacturers invited to bid for £1m to boost UK innovation

Posted on 29 Jan 2015 by Jonny Williamson

The Skills for Innovation in Manufacturing competition launched today, challenging firms to come up with new ways of developing the skills and business practices needed to maximise the value of innovation to the UK economy.

In recent years, the UK has risen up the Global Innovation Index, moving from 14th in 2010 to second place in 2014.

However, a government assessment of the UK’s science and innovation system, undertaken for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in 2014, identified planning, recruiting, training, retention, progression and performance management of people as one of the weakest parts of the system, with worrying deficiencies in basic skills, STEM skills and management.

Because the economic benefits of innovation are realised through businesses, it follows that the skills, workplace practices, and management at play within them are critical to ensuring the value of innovation is maximised.

Paul McKelvie OBE, training and development professional and a commissioner at the competition-runner, UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) commented: “It is fantastic that the UK is ranked as a front-runner in terms of innovation, second only globally to Switzerland.

“However, we need to do more to capitalise on this if we want to reap the economic reward and remain competitive. To do this effectively, we need to explore the ‘human factor’ in innovation. This means understanding how to better manage innovations; both in the way processes work and how any innovation is taken to market.

“It is the development of these skills that we want businesses to focus on when responding to our invitation.

McKelvie added: “This competition is a great opportunity for businesses in the manufacturing sector to come together and come up with ideas and solutions that they want to trial and develop to better maximise the value of innovation. By running this competition, I hope that a range of insights will be drawn from the projects we support to improve future business practice and public policy.”

The UK Futures Programme competition invites employer-led proposals from businesses of all sizes in the manufacturing sector to run initiatives lasting 12 months, which specifically focus on the skills required to manage an innovation process and exploit innovative products/services for commercial value.

Proposals must be joint investments with employers investing in cash, in kind or both alongside a maximum government contribution of £150,000 per project.

The competition closes at midday on Wednesday 11 March 2015.  For more information or to apply click here.