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NEW REPORT: Rethinking the Role of Further Education Colleges in Innovation Ecosystems image

NEW REPORT: Rethinking the Role of Further Education Colleges in Innovation Ecosystems

As we focus efforts to increase the UK’s innovation activity, what is the role of further education colleges (FECs) in increasing business innovation? To explore this, Innovate UK commissioned the Innovation Caucus in partnership with:

  • Gatsby Foundation
  • Department for Education
  • BEIS.

The ‘rethinking the role of FECs in innovation’ report  was published this month. It explores the ways in which FECs are developing their offer to support businesses to innovate alongside their established role as education providers.

For a brief overview of the reports findings and next steps, see the new Innovate UK blog by Debbie Johnson (Lead Specialist for Research, Innovate UK) Tim Vorley (Convenor of the Innovation Caucus).

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The Innovators’ Breakfast Club – Series 3 image

The Innovators’ Breakfast Club – Series 3

The Innovation Caucus was delighted to host a third series of the ‘Innovators’ Breakfast Club’, bringing together leading social scientists and Innovate UK/UKRI staff to discuss prominent issues in the UK innovation landscape.

It was great to see a lot of new faces from across UKRI join us for another set of engaging discussions. Each session begins with an Innovate UK staff member setting out the context on the week’s topic, followed by 2 or 3 short ‘provocations’ from Innovation Caucus members or special guests, invited for their social science expertise. Speakers’ short inputs are designed to stimulate thinking and actionable insights drawn from social science research. The focal point of each event is always the lively audience discussion and Q & A with panellists.

We would like to thank all of our speakers (listed below) for their work in preparing and delivering insightful talks,  Debbie Johnson and Dr Geeta Nathan (Innovate UK)  for their work in bringing this latest series together, and also Dr Vicki Belt (Enterprise Research Centre) for valuable expert speaker recommendations. Thanks also to participants for filling in the series evaluation form and providing plenty of ideas for future consideration – watch this space!

Innovator’s Breakfast Club: Series 3 – Thanks to all of our speakers!

Disruptive Innovation (21.04.21)

  • Simone Boekelaar (Innovate UK)
  • Professor Jonathan Sapsed (Newcastle University)
  • Professor Irene Ng (University of Warwick)

Business Model Innovation (28.04.21)

  • Nigel Walker (Innovate UK)
  • Dr Panos Desyllas (University of Bath)
  • Dr Yang Zhao (Loughborough University London)

Agility & Experimentations (05.05.21)

  • Simon Edmonds (Innovate UK)
  • Dr Eszter Czibor (Nesta)
  • Professor Bruce Tether (University of Manchester)

Connecting Innovation Ecosystems (12.05.21)

  • Dan Hodges (Innovate UK)
  • Professor Kiran Fernandes (Durham University)
  • Dr Karen Bonner (University of Ulster)
  • Professor Rick Delbridge (Cardiff University)

Missions (19.05.21)

  • Mike Biddle (Innovate UK)
  • Dr Kieron Flanagan (University of Manchester)
  • Professor Kevin Morgan (Cardiff University)

Featured image adapted from a photo by Syed Hussaini on Unsplash

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New Video: Rethinking the Role of Further Education Colleges in Innovation Ecosystems image

New Video: Rethinking the Role of Further Education Colleges in Innovation Ecosystems

Professor Tim Vorley (Academic Lead of the Innovation Caucus) was pleased to join a recent Association of Colleges webinar, supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Productivity Institute, to share some of our ongoing work looking at the role of FECs in the the Innovation Ecosystem.

What can colleges, as anchor institutions in their respective places,  do as part of the innovation ecosystem? Our work with Innovate UK and Gatsby looks at the important role of FECs and goes above and beyond skills development.

About the Innovation Caucus:

The Innovation Caucus supports sustainable innovation-led growth by promoting engagement between the social sciences and the innovation ecosystem. Our members are leading academics from across the social science community, who are engaged in different aspects of innovation research. We connect the social sciences, Innovate UK and the ESRC, by providing research insights to inform innovation policy and practice. We champion the role of social science in innovation and enhance its impact. Professor Tim Vorley is the Academic Lead. The initiative is funded and co-developed by the ESRC and Innovate UK. The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the funders

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New report: Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Innovate UK Award Holders – February 2021 image

New report: Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Innovate UK Award Holders – February 2021

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).

Download the Wave 3 report here.

Headline Summary

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.

You can also read the Wave 2 report here (October – November 2020) and the Wave 1 report here (June – July 2020).

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Future Flight Research Director  – Town Hall Event image

Future Flight Research Director – Town Hall Event

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:

Featured image adapted from photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash.


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Wave 2 Report – Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on Innovate UK award holders image

Wave 2 Report – Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on Innovate UK award holders

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).

Download the Wave 2 report here. The Wave 1 report can be found here.

Stephen Roper, ERC Director and co-author, has also written a short blog reflecting on the key findings.

Headline Summary

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.


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Business Model Innovation Toolkit image

Business Model Innovation Toolkit

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

Picture of the individual business model cards


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The Innovators’ Breakfast Club – Series 2 image

The Innovators’ Breakfast Club – Series 2

Featured image: adapted from photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

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)

Collaboration (21.10.20)

  • Stewart Miller (Innovate UK)
  • Dr Chris Haley (Nesta)
  • Professor Ammon Salter (University of Bath)
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ESRC Manufacturing Made Smarter Research Director Event image

ESRC Manufacturing Made Smarter Research Director Event

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.

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The Innovators’ Breakfast Club image

The Innovators’ Breakfast Club

Image adapted from photo by Matt Hoffman 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 ( 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)

Scale-ups (05.08.20)

  • 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)
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