A different approach to procuring innovation

To enable innovation it is important that the innovators feel that their solutions will be appreciated and that they will be able to develop the ideas without overpowering amounts of regulation.  Small companies are continually generating new innovative ideas but struggle to find any route to market for them.   They also want to interact with DEFRA as the regulator but in a way that allows them the freedom to generate flexible solutions quickly. 

Often Government departments feel the need to specify required products and services to great detail.  Sometimes this is needed to meet statutory obligations from UK or Europe.  Also there may be a lot of existing solutions that can be procured on the open market and so a detailed specification is required to select the most appropriate product.  However, where there is nothing on the market and innovation is needed, departments should define the problem and outline the outcomes that the solution should deliver, and leave it to the innovators to work out the best technology and specification.  The Innovate UK SBRI process follows this approach and has been shown to attract a wide range of innovation. 

Innovation is a risky business and many developments will fail.  Government departments are understandably risk adverse and will try to procure the best solution.  This usually translates to the least risky, and because of that is usually not very innovative.  The Innovate UK SBRI approach is for several simultaneous awards, knowing that some may fail, but hoping to have spread the net wide enough to capture the real innovation that can solve the problems in the years to come.

Why the contribution is important

Real innovation takes many years from the initial design to the development of a working solution.  If government want those innovative solutions they need to help that development process to ensure the needed innovative solutions are actually developed.  The government department needs to:

  1. Help define the future problems that need to be addressed but not the technology to be used or what the solution should be
  2. Share some of the risk by funding several projects in parallel to allow winners to emerge
  3. Provide guidance to the innovators through these development contracts to ensure they are developing solutions that address the problem

by Ian_M on January 08, 2016 at 05:17PM

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