The recent publication of ‘The Global Competitiveness Index’* highlights that whilst Finland emerges as the most innovative country in the world, the UK failed to even make the top ten.
Ranking only 12th in the world for innovation, the UK’s disappointing position has been attributed to a range of factors, including availability of scientists and engineers and an under capacity for innovation. Other factors include the UK’s lack of company spending on R&D, despite existing literature estimating private rates of return to R&D investment of around 30% (Source: BIS / Frontier Economics, 2014).
Here is our top five checklist to help businesses tap into their innovation potential and convert it into economic gain:
Focus your efforts on benefit-led innovation
Companies can innovate in many aspects of their work. In fact, many organisations are carrying out work that is considered to be R&D by HMRC when often it is considered day-to-day activity by the organisation itself. However, in addition to more obvious new project development work, activity that demonstrates a genuine technological advancement, solves a specific industry problem or is seen as ground-breaking innovation can often reap the most immediate economic rewards.
Invest in training and development
The attraction and retention of talent is critical to fostering innovation. However, The Global Competitive Index ranks the UK a disappointing 22nd for availability of scientists and engineers, lagging significantly behind Finland, which is ranked first, with Qatar second and Japan third. In contrast, Finland has 7,482 professionals working in R&D per 1 million of the population, compared to the UK which has just 4,024 (Source: The World Bank). To remain competitive businesses need employees who are armed with the right skill sets. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are absolutely critical to ensure businesses benefit from their investment in innovation.
Network with likeminded businesses
The UK’s growing number of innovation hubs provide fantastic networking and mentoring opportunities for like-minded individuals and companies. Often targeted at specific sectors, the hubs are a collaborative hotbed of industry expertise. Not only does this make it easier for businesses to access specialist skills, it also actively encourages the promotion of innovation by the exchanging of ideas and the creation of exciting partnership prospects. For example, The West London Energy Innovation Hub, which launched in 2014, was designed to create a base for innovative energy professionals to meet and resolve current energy market challenges.
Don’t forget to claim R&D tax relief!
Our experience shows that there is a gap between how UK businesses view R&D tax credits and the reality. All too often companies are missing out on this valuable opportunity to bolster their financial position. It doesn’t matter if your company has never claimed, hasn’t claimed for a decade, or is already claiming, you must review what you’re entitled to on a regular basis.
Take advantage of Europe’s generous innovation funding
The European Commission, through their Horizon 2020 funding programme, has a global budget of nearly €80 billion to support research and innovation projects. One new focus is on pushing new services and products to market, and cash is available to plug the gap from end-of-development phase to innovation-on-the-market. Alma works with companies and organisations across the sector to tailor a bespoke consultancy service best suited to their requirements.
To find out more about maximising the innovation funding opportunities available for your business contact us today.