UK lags behind in innovation stakes

18 Jan 2006 View Comments
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The UK is only an average performer when it comes to innovation, lagging behind the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Germany, according to research.

The European Commission’s European Innovation Summary, conducted by TrendChart, shows that the US and Japan are still far ahead of the 25 European Union member states, partly because of poor IT spending across Europe.

And the gap looks unlikely to close. The report says that many countries could take as long as 50 years to catch up.

‘The innovation scoreboard clearly shows we have to do more for innovation,’ said Günter Verheugen, European commissioner for enterprise and industry. ‘Boosting innovation is a major pillar in our Partnership for Growth and Jobs.’

The report lists information and communication technology as the second most innovative sector after electrical and optical equipment, while computer-related activities are third.

‘There is clear evidence that more innovative sectors tend to have higher productivity growth rates,’ said Verheugen.

Beatrice Rogers, senior programme manager for the knowledge economy at industry trade body Intellect, says the trends identified seem to match the UK’s environment closely.

‘The UK is doing OK, but that does not make it cutting-edge or a world leader. It’s not what we wanted to be, but it is a good platform to grow from and to help inform policy.’

Rogers highlights three areas of concern from the report: the low level of business and academic collaboration; lack of exploitation of research and development; and a wider issue of low demand for innovative products.

‘It seems as if some of the greatest innovations have come out of the UK, but we have not been good at exploiting them,’ she said.

In October the European Commission unveiled an integrated innovation and research action plan, which aims to improve conditions for research and innovation through a variety of techniques and measures.

The plan proposes a shake-up of intellectual property rules, allocating more funds and boosting partnerships between universities and industry.

'Obviously we see technology as innovative,’ said Rogers. ‘But it is also a great facilitator for innovation, by helping people collaborate more effectively and work globally.’

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