AIRTO welcomes government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper

Over the past year AIRTO has called on government to increase investment in innovation

AIRTO (the Association for Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations) welcomes the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper. Over the past year AIRTO, has been joining with the business and academic community to call repeatedly for increased investment in innovation. Our members – which include leaders of some of the UK’s major Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector organisations, have been urging the government to create ‘an innovation eco-system and infrastructure that works for everyone’. Recognising that innovation is the bedrock for the UK’s future prosperity, specifically we have been calling for four key innovation priorities to be given precedence:

  • Placing innovation at the heart of industrial strategy
  • Mitigating aspects of Brexit that risk constraining the UK’s capacity to innovate and grow business in global markets
  • Investing in innovation skills development
  • Strengthening the national innovation infrastructure

AIRTO is pleased to see that this announcement signals a focus on the key foundations for productivity: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places, and we especially welcome the explicit commitments that address AIRTO’s priorities for action – including:

  • Increasing spending on R&D to 2.4% of GDP
  • Investment of a further £725m in a second wave of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and the first four Grand Challenges in Artificial Intelligence and Data Driven Economy, Clean Growth, Future of Mobility and our Ageing Society
  • Changes to immigration rules to enable world-leading scientists, researchers and graduates to remain in the UK
  • Development of skills in key areas of emerging technology like artificial intelligence
  • Launch of a new International Research and Innovation Strategy with a £110m Fund for international collaborations to stimulate global engagement

AIRTO is also very pleased to see the announcement of sector deals in construction, life sciences, artificial intelligence and automotive industries. Organisations in the UK’s IRT sector are looking forward to involvement in sector deals and in the Grand Challenges. AIRTO member NICA, (the National Innovation Centre for Ageing) said “we are delighted that the newly published Industrial Strategy recognises the role that innovation can play in meeting the needs of an ageing society. By 2050, the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is projected to more than double, reaching nearly 2.1 billion. The needs and opportunities of a globally ageing consumer market provides us with the chance develop key products, services and technologies that increase and enhance healthy life years. The role of the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing is to do just this by delivering a critical mass of expertise to work with organisations and sectors as diverse as kitchen manufacture, transport, financial services, retail, digital services and housing. We look forward to working with organisations in the UK and internationally to address these global social and economic opportunities.” Patrick Bonnett (Deputy Director).

Commenting jointly on sector deals, AIRTO’s President, Professor Richard Brook OBE FREng, and AIRTO’s Chairman Dr Paul Howarth FREng, called on the government to go a step further:

“We should like to see the government leverage our sector even further to deliver the new industrial strategy by establishing a National Innovation Council, with representation from industry, government and academia, with a core mission to co-ordinate innovation activities across the UK. Such a council would:

  • join up the entire innovation ecosystem to improve diffusion of innovation through collaboration along and across supply chains and between different sectors, including both high productivity and lower productivity areas of business,
  • foster the generation of innovative ideas, the development of suitably skilled innovation practitioners and the availability of appropriate finance from both public and private sources,
  • support the evolution of commercial and entrepreneurial culture amongst those engaged in the translation of developments towards market.”

A cross-cutting sector deal for innovation could provide national co-ordination of innovation activities delivered to support UK industry needs. Specific opportunities for AIRTO members to add most value are in areas of innovation training and skills provision to industry and in the commercialisation of inventive concepts on their journey to market. In addition, AIRTO members and networks have UK regional footprints which can support the rebalancing agenda of government, as well as having established and proven international partnerships which can be used to leverage UK export potential. We look further discussing this proposal with government and industry representatives in coming months.


AIRTO is the Association of Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations. Its membership comprises approximately sixty of the principal organisations operating in the UK’s Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector. The IRT sector has a combined turnover of £6.9Bn, employing over 57,000 scientific and technical staff (equivalent to the academic staffing of the Russell Group of universities) and, for comparison, it is significantly larger than the network of Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany both in size and its scope of activities. The sector contributes £34Bn to UK GDP. AIRTO’s members work at the interface between academia and industry, for both private and public sector clients.

Members include independent Research and Technology Organisations, Catapult Centres, Public Sector Research Establishments, National Laboratories, some university Technology Transfer Offices and some privately held innovation companies.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Jane Gate
Executive Director, AIRTO Ltd