Regulation and Innovation: developing Defra's Innovation Plan

This challenge is open until Friday 19th February.

The issue

We know that innovation is an important driver of productivity and competitive markets. Well-placed regulation can be an incentive to innovate as it provides investors with clarity and confidence. However, it can also have significant effects on the ability of businesses to innovate or enter / create markets, and to do so quickly. We need to ensure our business environment sets the conditions that support innovative, disruptive businesses to start up and expand, while continuing to provide assurance that intended protections remain in place.  

The Innovation Plan

The Government’s plan to boost UK productivity requires Departments to publish an Innovation Plan by spring 2016. Defra’s Innovation Plan will provide assurance that our regulatory framework is working effectively to support innovation and disruptive business models – and that regulators are using innovation to deliver their own work more effectively, and to reduce burdens on business.

Defra has already delivered on-the-ground improvements in our service to innovative business, such as:

  • our Smarter Guidance programme which had made it quicker and easier for new entrants to understand their legal obligations;
  • our Defra Data programme which is releasing and opening up 8,000 datasets to drive data innovation, and help innovators to think big, to take risks and build profitable businesses as part of changing Defra to be a more data-driven organisation;
  • the Environment Agency’s Regulated Industry Board and Modernising Waste Regulation Panel which consider queries for new, innovative technology where business needs a quick decision; and
  • the Marine Management Organisation’s approach to issuing overarching consents for marine renewable test sites, reducing the time taken to assess novel marine energy technologies using those sites.

We are also utilising new technologies within our own work to minimise the burdens of regulation on business. Examples include:

  • realising the potential of earth observation and satellite data to increase the efficiency of agricultural, water quality and marine monitoring, led by our Centre of Excellence for Earth Observations;
  • our Customer Service Transformation Programme, which will make it as easy and proportionate as possible to get permission to operate from the Defra group;
  • developing data sharing tools and data-led risk-based inspection schemes which will help the Single Farm Inspection Taskforce reduce farm visits by 20,000 by the end of this parliament;  and
  • working with industry to explore the potential of DNA detection methods to survey for great crested newts, which has the potential to reduce wildlife survey costs for developers.

What’s in scope?

We’d like to hear from business and industry which are regulated by organisations in the Defra network. This includes the work of: the Environment Agency; Natural England; The Forestry Commission; The Rural Payments Authority (RPA); Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA); Veterinary Medicines Directorate; The Marine Management Organisation; Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS); and The Drinking Water Inspectorate.

There are three open dialogues which will inform our Innovation Plan. Please give us your views in one or more of the following dialogues:

Regulatory enablers of and barriers to innovation

Defra’s service to innovative business

How Defra uses new technologies to minimise burden on business


If you have any questions, please email

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