Innovate UK CEO addresses AIRTO community

AIRTO Annual Dinner 19 May 2016

‘The UK must be in a position to create the businesses of the future.’ says Ruth McKernan – CEO of Innovate UK – at AIRTO’s Innovation, Research and Technology Sector Annual Event

Dr Ruth McKernan CBE – CEO of Innovate UK

Dr Ruth McKernan CBE – CEO of Innovate UK

Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, addressed over 120 guests from industry, academia and government at AIRTO’s Annual Black Tie Dinner on 19 May 2016 at Stationer’s Hall, London.

Ruth – who has been at the helm of Innovate UK for a year now, after spending 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry – explored the keys to strengthening innovation in the UK. Reflecting on the importance of fostering innovation, Ruth highlighted Innovate UK’s recently published Delivery Plan for 2016/17. She said:

“We know that true innovation disrupts. It creates new things we don’t even know about yet – new products, new processes, new services and new industries. It’s our vision at Innovate UK to help the UK economy grow head and shoulders above other nations by driving disruptive innovation – inspiring and supporting pioneering UK businesses to create the industries of the future.

“But innovation doesn’t just happen: it needs nurture, support and the oxygen of success.
Innovate UK has supported 7,600 organisations to date, helping to create 55,000 jobs and returning £13.1 billion to the economy.
In April we published our delivery plan for the next 12 months. This shows how we will invest £561 million of government funding in UK innovation.”

Recognising the vital roles to be played by academia, industry, business, and the Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations, the latest embodiment of which are the Catapult Centres, Ruth added:

“As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, the UK must be in a position to create the businesses of the future. In a knowledge based economy, we need to imagine the city of the future and the hospital of the future. We need to imagine what intelligent manufacturing could mean for the UK.
“The Catapults have a key role within this, but do not do this in isolation. The Catapults work alongside research and technology organisations, innovation knowledge centres and other parts of the research base, businesses and all other elements of an increasingly rich national innovation network.”

In his introduction to Ruth’s speech, Richard Brook, AIRTO’s President, noted that: “AIRTO has been a strong and vocal supporter of Innovate UK, which it counts as a highly valued partner in our shared endeavour to advance innovation in the UK economy.” Richard went on to welcome the Government’s recently stated intention to create an Innovation Plan for the UK to sit alongside the Productivity Plan, and urged members and guests alike to respond to the current BIS consultation.

The event was an opportunity to announce the result from AIRTO’s survey of members on the topic of the AIRTO referendum, which revealed:

  • 82% of members expressed a preference for remaining, 9% are still to decide and the rest are split equally between neutrality and preferring to leave.
  • The main concerns raised about a decision to leave were:
    • Reduced opportunities for collaboration (cited by 60%)
    • Damage to business, operations and prosperity of clients (cited by 50%)
    • Reduced access to finance for research and innovation (cited by 40%)

Whilst AIRTO’s community in the Innovation, Research and Technology Sector embraces disruptive innovation, and leaving the EU could be classed as disruptive innovation, it is evident that most members feel that the threats posed by disruption on this scale outweigh the opportunities. This inclination is in line with the findings of the CBI across business and industry more generally.

View AIRTO’s EU referendum survey results here.

Read Richard Brook’s speech here.