Innovate UK blog post provides clues into future funding direction

Kevin Baughan, Innovate UK’s Director of Technology and Innovation has published an illuminating blog post which for the first time gives an insight into how Innovate UK intends to adapt to the reality of real-terms funding cuts.

Reinforcing the need for change, Baughan describes how he prepared for his Innovate UK job interview by writing notes on “seventeen different ways in which Innovate UK supported business-led innovation. Each intervention was carefully crafted to solve a particular challenge”.

He now believes, along with other Innovate UK top brass, in the “simplification agenda” which has been driven in large part by Dowling Report.  In her 2015 report Professor Dowling found that that public support for innovation is too complex and that “businesses, particularly SMEs, find the current landscape too difficult to navigate and that policy makers find it too difficult to understand the totality of the support mechanisms provided”.

The result is that Innovate UK is currently undertaking a fundamental reappraisal of all its programmes and according to Baughan it will “commit to fundamentally simplifying how we connect and fund the innovation landscape”.

Interestingly, Baughan gives the first clues as to how this might operate.  He states:

“Traditionally, each opportunity would have typically led to a one-off targeted competition.  As a result, it would be difficult for businesses to stay abreast of the competitions relevant to them, and then frustrating for them when they are not able to meet the associated one-off competition deadlines.  Going forward, we are therefore considering a different approach with a much broader competition structure, consistently focused on a group of inter-related sectors and run on a regular cycle – building on the highly successful characteristics of the existing Catalyst and SMART competitions.

“Specific opportunities then become highlighted areas of particular interest within these broader competitions and businesses know where to look to find the competitions relevant to their sectors.  If a business is not ready for the deadlines for the current competition they can wait for the following round. By maintaining one competition strand with a completely open mandate, we also ensure that every business from every sector has a route to apply for funding”.

Baughan tantalisingly looks further ahead to the next goal which will be “to consider how we can provide a broader range of financial support for innovation: with opportunity-led investment allowing us to find and prove the UK businesses capable of excelling in the global markets of the future and business-led investment allowing us to then grow and scale the businesses which have the highest potential”.

Read Kevin Baughan’s blog post at