Today the Innovation Caucus and the Enterprise Research Centre published their third in a series of benchmark reports on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Innovate UK award holders.
Analysis was based on an on-line survey of 274 IUK award holders conducted between 1st February and 25th February 2021 and 21 in-depth interviews which were undertaken over the same period. The report was commissioned by Innovate UK.
This Insights Paper was prepared by Stephen Roper (Enterprise Research Centre and University of Warwick), Tim Vorley (Innovation Caucus and Oxford Brookes University) and Jen Nelles (Innovation Caucus and University of Sheffield).
In February 2021 firms were marginally more optimistic about the outlook than in October 2020. However, firms are still experiencing significant challenges constraining their abilities to engage in innovation and complete projects on time, potentially with longer term implications for the innovative capacity of the economy.
Firms are experiencing continued disruption through the lockdown particularly to cash flow, business development and the ability to network with other companies. Cash flow remains critical for about 1:5 companies. This is a slight worsening of the situation from the previous period when around 1:6 companies reported cash flow being critical. Most firms were aiming to reduce costs in order to cope.
R&D investment patterns vary significantly between firms with some firms rebounding, some in a holding pattern with stable levels of investment and some firms continuing to pull back from investing in R&D and innovation. 62.7% still classify their R&D capacity as “disrupted”, indicating that despite these upticks many firms are still not back to normal capacity.
ISCF Future Flight Research Director Call –Now open
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is pleased to announce that the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Future Flight Research Director call is now open.
The Research Director will help the Future Flight Challenge and wider aviation sector to identify areas where economic and social science research can make a significant contribution. A key aim of the role will be to support the creation of a multidisciplinary community, linking stakeholders, researchers and businesses to identify and tackle challenges associated with Future Flight. You can watch a video below from an online briefing event for potential applicants which was hosted by the Innovation Caucus on 17th March.
The call will provide £190,000 (100% fEC) of funding for 12 months.
Proposals must be submitted by 16:00 22 April 2021. All proposals to this opportunity must be from a researcher based at an eligible UK research organisation.
For further details please visit: https://www.ukri.org/opportunity/iscf-future-flight-research-director-2021/
Featured image adapted from photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash.
Today the Innovation Caucus and the Enterprise Research Centre published Wave 2 of their joint report commissioned by Innovate UK into how supported businesses have weathered the pandemic.
This Insights Paper was prepared by Stephen Roper (Enterprise Research Centre and University of Warwick), Tim Vorley (Innovation Caucus and Oxford Brookes University) and Jen Nelles (Innovation Caucus and University of Sheffield).
Stephen Roper, ERC Director and co-author, has also written a short blog reflecting on the key findings.
Trend and outlooks in October/November 2020
- R&D and innovation activities remained critical to many firms – Particularly to small and micro firms who reported increased significance of R&D activities at greater numbers than the previous period. A fifth of all firms planned to increase R&D and innovation investment by at least 10 per cent over the next three months (up from 1:13 in the Wave 1 survey). Overall, R&D is seen as “crucial to survival” (in the words of one respondent) but firms vary in projected timelines to increase investment in this area.
- Disruptions to R&D were decreasing – although firms still reported significant disruptions due to cash flow, networking, and business development. In this survey period (October), 31% fewer firms cited R&D disruptions, while 50% fewer firms reported that they had stopped all R&D activity, and 42% fewer firms reported that they were re-tasking R&D personnel to essential functions.
- Business revenues were rebounding slightly – The proportion of businesses reporting a reduction in revenues over the last 3 months in October was 58.1% down from 69.7% in the preceding period. A small number, 9.1% (1:11), of firms increased their revenues, a threefold increase compared to June 2020 (3% or 1:33). However, about the same number of firms (1:3) had their revenues halved or reduced to zero, with a slight decrease from 36% to 30%.
- Cash flow concerns were decreasing for some firms – 11% (1:9) firms experienced positive cashflow in October 2020, a 250% increase from June 2020 (4%) and fewer firms (1:6) described their liquidity as ‘critical’ compared to the previous period (1:5), with 2:3 firms reducing costs to manage liquidity challenges.
- Business rates relief has yielded some benefits – 1:4 firms benefited from business rates relief, four times more than in June 2020 (6% or 1:17), which was the most commonly utilised measure to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.
- Collaboration rates are beginning to increase overall – Levels of collaboration with suppliers, clients/customers from the private sector, clients/customers from the public sector, and government or public research institutes had increased compared to the previous period. However, there are some worrying trends in R&D collaboration with universities and R&D institutes.
- More businesses plan to use grants – 1:8 firms planned to utilise the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 over the next three months (almost double from the 1:15 in the Wave 1 survey).
Areas of current and future concern in October/November 2020
- Supply chain and demand volatility is increasing – 2:3 firms experienced changes in customer orders in October 2020, a 19% increase compared to June 2020; the majority reduced or delayed orders but more (1:4) cancelled compared to June 2020 (1:5). There was an increase in those cancelling as opposed to reducing or delaying orders.
- A small number of firms continue to reduce R&D spending – Around 1:8 firms planned to reduce R&D and innovation investment by more than 50 per cent over the next three months (down from 1:4 in the Wave 1 survey).
- Cashflow remains a problem for many firms – Although fewer firms described their financial status in precarious terms, 2:3 firms reported their cash flow as “under pressure”. Firms expected this to be a persistent problem over the short term. About a quarter of firms projected a fall in revenues of over 50 per cent over the next three months (down from 1:3 in the Wave 1 survey). Only a fraction of that (1:8) project an increase in revenues (up from 1:21 in the Wave 1 survey).
- Collaboration with R&D intensive institutions decreased – More firms reported that collaboration with other businesses within their own enterprise group (1:4) and consultants, commercial labs or private R&D institutes (1:3) has fallen compared to June 2020. While 1:3 have reduced their collaboration with universities, 1:4 have increased their collaboration, an increase from 1:7 in June 2020.
- Collaboration with universities has decreased substantially – Around 2:3 firms were collaborating with universities prior to the pandemic. 1:5 of these firms had reduced spend on collaboration by more than 25 per cent. 1:7 reduced their spending with universities by more than 50 per cent, a 38% increase from June 2020.
Hot off the press, a new supply of Business Model Innovation Toolkit has arrived!
Over the past couple of years the notion of ‘business model innovation’ has become increasingly popular.
While many businesses think about innovation in terms of their products, processes and services, business model innovation is about creating and capturing value from different aspects of the business model.
Our Business Model Innovation Toolkit helps businesses to identify what services your customers and end users value and how and why the customer pays for your product, process or service. Explore how well you can explain your business model in terms of the offering (i.e. product/process/service), experience (i.e. how you engage with the customer) and configuration (how the business operates) through this helpful set of cards.
If you would like one of our Business Model Innovation Toolkits, please drop us an email at email@example.com.
Together with the Enterprise Research Centre, the Innovation Caucus was delighted to host another series of the Innovators’ Breakfast Club. The Innovators’ Breakfast Club brings together Innovate UK and UKRI staff with social science academics for an engaging early morning discussion on key issues in the UK’s innovation ecosystem. You can read about our first series here.
In these busy online times, we were grateful that participants not only made the time to join us each Wednesday at 08:15, but that they actively engaged in the lively discussions each morning. Once again the series was designed to feed into the ongoing work to develop Innovate UK’s new strategy, with our topics covering Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Levelling Up, Talent and Skills and Business Collaboration.
Each week a member of Innovate UK set the scene for us by providing an overview of current work and future plans on the relevant theme. The opening talks are then followed by 2-3 ‘provocations’ by Innovation Caucus and ERC members (and invited friends) – these are short talks that probe at the key issues at stake and bring in actionable research insights. The focal point of each morning is the discussion section, using participants’ questions from the chat box to further explore the key issues, chaired by Professor Tim Vorley (Innovation Caucus Academic Lead).
We would like to thank everyone who provided spoke (full list below) or joined the discussions and a special thank you to Debbie Johnson, Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK) and Dr Vicki Belt (ERC) for all their work behind the scenes. If you participated in one ore more the Breakfast Club sessions we would appreciate your feedback via the evaluation form you received or you are very welcome to get in touch to discuss directly.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (30.09.20)
- Dr Emily Nott (Innovate UK)
- Dr Beldina Owalla (University of Sheffield)
- Professor Helen Lawton Smith (Birkbeck, University of London)
- Professor Monder Ram (Aston University)
Levelling Up (07.10.20)
- Dean Cook (Innovate UK)
- Professor David Charles (Northumbria University)
- Professor Philip McCann (University of Sheffield)
Talent and Skills (14.10.20)
- Joanna Burgess (Innovate UK)
- Dr Tamara Friedrich (University of Warwick)
- Professor Bruce Tether (University of Manchester)
- Stewart Miller (Innovate UK)
- Dr Chris Haley (Nesta)
- Professor Ammon Salter (University of Bath)
The ESRC have invited applications for a Manufacturing Made Smarter Research Director. The Research Director will ensure that social and economic science insights are accessed across the MMS challenge and wider UK manufacturing sector. For further details see the ESRC webpages.
The Innovation Caucus was pleased to support a ‘town hall’ style webinar for any individuals who were interested to hear more about the role.
At the event participants heard from a current Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Research Director (Professor Judith Phillips – Healthy Ageing Challenge), a current Network+ Director (Professor Jacqueline Glass – Transforming Construction Network+), the MMS Challenge Director (Chris Courtney) and the ESRC MMS Senior Manager (Daniel Robinson). The presentations provided participants with further details about the role and the MMS challenge, but also valuable practical insights from academics who have been working to make an impact with similar programme structures. Professor Tim Vorley (Innovation Caucus Academic Lead) chaired a panel discussion to allow participants to ask further questions.
Many thanks to all of our speakers.
Applications close on 25 November 2020 16:00 UK time
Featured photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.
UPDATE: Series 2 Begins on Wednesday 30th September (Please note that these events are only open to UKRI, Innovation Caucus and Enterprise Research Centre staff). Please contact Phil Wallace (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Over the summer Innovate UK, the Innovation Caucus and the Enterprise Research Centre joined forces to create the ‘Innovators’ Breakfast Club’. Bright and early each Wednesday morning for 5 weeks, staff from across Innovate UK and UKRI arrived coffee-in-hand to participate in an engaging discussion with colleagues and social science experts. Innovation Caucus members enjoyed contributing expert insights and the latest evidence in lively discussions each week, providing food for thought as Innovate UK develop their new strategy.
Topics like ‘Foreign Direct Investment’ might seem too heavy to tackle while you’re still finishing off your toast, but over 50 people logged in each week, filling the chat box with insights and intelligent questions. Each event began with an outline of that week’s strategic theme presented by an Innovate UK / UKRI colleague with a level of responsibility for that area. These opening thoughts, often covering the existing work programmes and the emerging vision for the future, were followed by 2-3 of what we like to term ‘provocations’ provided by Innovation Caucus and ERC academic members (and invited guests). Provocations are short and punchy presentations, which prompt and probe at the key areas – bringing research insights to bear on key issues without getting too bogged down in the detail (the academic references can always be provided in follow-up discussions, or indeed dropped in the chat box!). Each session culminated in a panel discussion chaired by Professor Tim Vorley (Academic Lead of the Innovation Caucus), drawing on participants’ own questions and insights.
We hope that participants found the series to be an engaging and accessible exploration of (some of) the key strategic issues around innovation that UKRI are working on, seen through the lens of social science.
Thank you to all of the contributors, whether in the chat box or giving a presentation (full list below). A special thank you to Debbie Johnson, Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK) and Dr Vicki Belt (ERC) for bringing the series to life:
Diffusion and Adoption (22.07.20)
- Dr David Wilkes (Innovate UK)
- Professor Stephen Roper (Enterprise Research Centre)
- Professor Philip Shapira (Innovation Caucus)
Commercialisation and Cooperation (29.07.20)
- Dr Tony Soteriou (UKRI)
- Dr Kristel Miller (Innovation Caucus)
- Professor Markus Perkmann (Imperial College London)
- Maxine Adam (Innovate UK)
- Professor Mark Hart (ERC)
- Dr Norin Arshed (Innovation Caucus)
Sustainability and Societal Impact (12.08.20)
- Paul Mason (Innovate UK)
- Debbie Johnson (Innovate UK)
- Professor Will Green (Innovation Caucus)
- Lee Hopley (ERC)
Foreign Direct Investment (19.08.20)
- Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK)
- Professor Nigel Driffield (ERC)
- Professor Richard Harris (Productivity Insights Network)
Today the Innovation Caucus and the Enterprise Research Centre published a joint report commissioned by Innovate UK into how supported businesses have weathered the pandemic. The research led by Professor Stephen Roper and Professor Tim Vorley highlights that the implications and impacts of COVID-19 have not adversely affected Innovate UK funded firms, many of which have shown great resilience and innovation.
- In general terms firms had either maintained current levels of collaboration or seen it decline often due to the inability of partners to access laboratory or other facilities. Around 1:3 firms collaborating with universities said they had reduced levels of collaboration over this period. Few firms are planning to increase their level of spend with around two-thirds planning no change and 1:6 planning to reduce spend by more than 50 per cent.
- Around two-thirds of firms regarded their IUK project as ‘progressing, but behind the planned schedule’. Around 10 per cent of projects were described as ‘paused’. Only a small proportion of projects (1.3 per cent) were ‘stopped permanently’. Project delays were more likely among larger firms and those in the manufacturing sector.
- The main reasons for disruption to projects were access to buildings or facilities due to the lock-down and the availability of collaborating partners. Together these were reported by around half of all respondents. Disruption to revenues was also a significant reason for project disruption among micro-businesses and among those in the broad hospitality, transport and finance sector.
- Around two-third of firms suggested future R&D plans remained unchanged. The other third of firms were slowing down or cutting back on their projects.
- The majority of firms indicated that they would benefit from additional financial support from IUK. Perhaps surprisingly only around 1:5 firms suggested that such support would be useful although this proportion rises to 1:3 among micro- businesses working on IUK awards
An Innovate UK spokesperson said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic is not just a crisis for health but also one that affects our economy and society profoundly. Recognising the impact that coronavirus has had on businesses that Innovate UK responded rapidly to roll out additional support. We are accelerating up to £200 million of grant and loan payments for its 2,500 existing Innovate UK customers on an opt-in basis. An extra £550 million will also be made available to increase support for existing customers and £175,000 of support will be offered to around 1,200 firms not currently in receipt of Innovate UK funding. Businesses have demonstrated resilience and innovation and we know that may still face tough circumstances. We will do everything we can to develop our support and encourage businesses to get in touch with us so we see what further we can achieve together.”
The analysis will be repeated in a second wave of the survey that will be conducted in late September, with a third wave of the survey to be conducted early in the New Year to help understand the full impact of COVID-19 on innovate UK funded businesses.
The ESRC has issued a pre-call for a Manufacturing Made Smarter (MMS) Research Director and is hosting a Town Hall event supported by the Innovation Caucus. The Research Director will develop and support the creation of a visible and effective digital innovation ecosystem to accelerate the innovation and diffusion of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs). The MMS Research Director will work for initial period of five months to engage with key stakeholders and develop a detailed proposal for a MMS Network+. The Network+, under the leadership of the MMS Research Director, will ensure that the full range and depth of social and economic science insights are accessed across the MMS Challenge and wider UK manufacturing sector. The MMS Network+ will operate until December 2024. The UKRI ISCF MMS Challenge will invest up to £4 million through this competition. Full details on the pre-call are available on the UKRI website.
This meeting is for any individual interested in finding out more about the Research Director role, where you will hear from a current ISCF Research Director (Professor Judith Phillips), a Network+ Director (Professor Jacqueline Glass), the MMS Challenge Director (Chris Courtney) and the ESRC MMS Senior Manager (Daniel Robinson). The webinar will take place on Tuesday 13th October, 14:30 – 15:45.
Click here to register: http://bit.ly/MMSResearchDirector
The aim of the MMS Challenge is to help UK manufacturing become more productive and competitive through the innovation and diffusion of digital technology. This includes IDTs such as additive manufacturing, robotics, virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics. The MMS ISCF Challenge will invest up to £147m.
The role of the Research Director is to develop and oversee the implementation of a MMS Network to ensure that the full range and depth of social and economic science insights are accessed across the MMS Challenge and wider UK manufacturing sector. The Research Director will work closely with the UKRI MMS Challenge Director and team in the development of the Network+. The Network+ will provide academic leadership across the sectors and organise networking activities such as workshops, events and communications, to build sustained engagement and collaboration. Applicants for the Research Director position can come from any academic discipline relevant to the MMS Challenge but will need to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the economic and social sciences as they apply to innovation and diffusion of new digital manufacturing technologies. They will be able to demonstrate their commitment to interdisciplinary working, and ability to build new collaborations between different social, economic and other disciplines including engineering. They will also need to demonstrate an understanding of the needs and demands of the manufacturing sector in the UK.
Through the five-month scoping phase, the MMS Research Director will work with the UKRI MMS Challenge Director and team to identify how the economic and social science communities can most effectively support the UK manufacturing sector accelerate its innovation and diffusion of IDTs. Industry engagement will be critical, including SMEs, as will the engagement of other key stakeholders including the Made Smarter Commission and Northwest pilot, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The scoping phase will also need to ensure that the proposed Network+ and wider MMS Challenge are aligned and able to respond to key developments such as major fiscal events, EU Withdrawal, and the ongoing impacts of Covid-19. Following this scoping phase, the Research Director will lead the Network+.
For full details and timetable of this call please visit https://www.ukri.org/funding/funding-opportunities/ukri-iscf-manufacturing-made-smarter-research-director-pre-call-announcement/
Tuesday 2nd June 2020
By Phil Wallace
Innovation Caucus Project Manager
It was touch and go whether this year’s Innovation Caucus Members’ Event would go ahead. Granted, it’s not like re-scheduling Glastonbury, but the idea of condensing an engaging day of talks, discussion and new connections into a Zoom call initially felt unappealing. However, currently many of our academic members are actively supporting a wide variety of organisations who are making massive adjustments in light of the challenges we are facing – changing an event format became a small matter when considered against this backdrop. Indeed, the social science response to COVID-19 rightfully became the new focus for our remodelled Members’ Event.
The advantages of a virtual event soon became apparent, with more participants able to take part than would have been possible in our planned physical location. We were delighted to have Professor Mark Gillan (Chief Technology Officer, Innovate UK) and Professor Paul Nightingale (Director of Special Projects, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)) share with us the important work that Innovate UK and the ESRC are doing to support individuals and organisations as part of the UK’s COVID-19 response. Professors Gillan and Nightingale also provided plenty of primers around how social scientists can contribute to efforts to respond to the global pandemic – sparking a highly engaging discussion later in the session.
We are also grateful to the fantastic Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Directors who were able to join us and share information on their Challenge area. By splitting into break-out rooms, our members enjoyed more interactive discussion around the key priorities in these Challenge areas and how we as social scientists can play our part. A big thank you to:
- George MacGinnis (Healthy Ageing)
- Paul Davidson (Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging)
- Bruce Adderley (Transforming Foundation Industries)
We are grateful for the support of the Innovation Caucus Leadership Group – including Melanie Knetsch (ESRC), Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK), Dr Adam Luqmani (ESRC), Debbie Johnson (Innovate UK) and also Heidi Hinder (ESRC) for their hard work and support in making this event happen. Rather than experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, our Innovation Caucus members went away freshly inspired and informed in how they can use their expertise for maximum impact.