Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector

An independent survey into the Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector and the impact that its work has on the UK economy.

Oxford Economics, the highly respected independent specialists in economic impact assessment, has carried out a survey of the UK’s Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector and the impact that its work in innovation and the exploitation of research and technological change has on the UK economy. The report was commissioned by AIRTO.

The innovation, research and technology (IRT) sector is made up of organisations and companies that supply professional services vital for innovation. This includes a range of organisations that help turn ideas into successful products and services, including underpinning them with necessary research, technology and business support. Such products and services are then put into use by industry, business and government. While some firms are dedicated to research and development or technology translation and adaptation, others are engaged in testing and proving, or in the management and financing of these activities .The sector plays a vital role in accelerating the take-up of technology. In some circumstances, this involves the industry communicating its needs to government, funding bodies, academic institutions and other IRT organisations. Elsewhere, the sector transmits information about the existence and relevance of new, innovative research to industry players.

The IRT sector, therefore, is a critical link between academia, other research institutions and industry. In that capacity, it increases technology readiness levels (TRLs) in the UK. The sector typically has the greatest influence between TRLs 4 and 7, achieving its goals via risk reduction – whether the risk in question is technology risk, market risk, or the risk of financial failure. This process is often non-linear: instead of simply shepherding a technology from one level to the next, companies in the IRT sector often need to move nimbly between TRLs. At its best, the IRT sector has the potential to enhance UK productivity, increase international competitiveness of UK research and industry, attract and train a highly-skilled workforce, and, ultimately, improve quality of life in the country.

The report concludes that the work of the sector is vital in helping to raise the productivity of UK companies and in connecting businesses, government and academia to the resources needed for the successful uptake of new technology. The sector has a combined turnover of £6.9bn and contributes £32-£36bn to UK GVA, supporting over 141,000 jobs.