Government pledges £1bn for business innovation

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The Independent Online

The Government yesterday announced a £1bn investment over the next three years to boost business innovation and technology.

Ministers pledged to create a "science and innovation strategy", with a new Technology Strategy Board at its centre, to "position Britain as a key knowledge economy at the forefront of 21st-century innovation".

The initiative follows a review of science and innovation led by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, a former science minister. The Technology Strategy Board will work with the established research councils and regional development agencies on new measures to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, by boosting investment in the training of specialist teachers.

It will also seek to improve knowledge transfer between universities and business through an improved Higher Education Innovation Fund.

John Denham, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said: "Global competition shouldn't be a 'race to the bottom', to see who can produce things the cheapest. It should be a 'race to the top', where we draw in the best and brightest researchers to help tap into new, high-value markets, based on our talent, infrastructure and innovation."

The announcement received a warm welcome – with a few caveats. The National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts applauded "a positive vision for innovation in this country", while the CBI said: "Lord Sainsbury is rightly focused on the whole of the 'innovation ecosystem' rather than simply R & D."

However, the business group warned the increase to £1bn funding over three years was a start, "but only half of what we believe is needed to make a really radical difference".

A spokesman for the TUC added: "If we were to have a criticism, it would be that it does not completely follow through the logic of its analysis – there should be a clear call for the Government to pick winning sectors."