Having listened to the last budget before the Coronavirus impacted on the country and then seen the latest round of treasury support for R&D the Future fund, which again seems aimed at technology firms, it got me thinking about innovation and the government’s attitude and understanding of innovation, creativity and how it works.
First, I wanted to make a couple of distinctions about the way I view Innovation and Creativity
Creativity is something created that is brand new, we have never seen it before, true creativity is a rare thing and as we progress as a society we do see less of it, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the first telephone, the first computer and so on.
Innovation is where we take something that already exists and makes it better, adapts it, evolves it and in this case there are far more examples with technology accelerating the rate of innovation that is possible, we saw this with James Dyson and the vacuum cleaner, or as many called it the “Hoover” (another brand name), the Japanese Motorcycle industry took traditional designs improved on them and in effect killed the British Motorcycle Industry, we also saw the rise of CD’s, the decline of Vinyl, then CD’s evolving into downloads and then who would have thought it, a resurgence in vinyl records.
The government seems to see Innovation as being mainly based in the technology sector and places a lot of emphasis and support into R&D in this area, which in a way is understandable, but they are missing a trick! With the rapid rate of change in society and business, all business sectors need to be innovating and the government needs to encourage this and broaden its view. The technology sector tends to be going into new areas and therefore creating new products and markets and that is to be encouraged.
But we also need to see innovation being encouraged and supported in all businesses, I talked about the motorcycle industry, vacuum cleaner and vinyl records, but what about innovation on our high streets, in retail, hospitality, banking, manufacturing the care sector and NHS and who knows even local and national government.
Innovation needs encouraging throughout our economy and in every business and not just in the technology sector, the government needs to widen its understanding of what innovation and creativity really is, invest in and encourage it and ensure it can benefit every business in the UK not just the shiny new ones!