Encouraging a British Invention Revolution: Sir Andrew Witty’s Review of Universities and Growth

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    Innovation Team
    29 January 2016 - updated 2 years ago
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Author(s): 
Sir Andrew Witty
Year of publication: 
2013
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Report of the Review by Sir Andrew Witty Two conclusions dominate:

1. The UK has an extraordinary wealth of ideas, technology and human energy – much of which is world-leading and capable of seeding not just new companies but whole industries with potential to build substantial export positions.

2. Significant scope exists to better align funding streams, organisational focus and increase cross institution collaboration to avoid delays in ideas reaching maturity and the risk of British inventions building foreign industries. The point being that the ‘thicket’ of complexity that exists between central and local structures and diffusion of funding and advisory energies leads to unnecessary hurdles for those striving to translate ideas to job creating businesses. At the heart of Sir Andrew Witty's recommendations – three philosophies:1. Structure funding flows by technology/industry opportunity – not by postcode. We should embrace the country’s density of population and institutions and drive greater collaboration wherever the ‘idea flows’ – eliminating unnecessary regional barriers which create domestic competition instead of marshalling our resources to run a global race. 2. Universities have an extraordinary potential to enhance economic growth. The full diversity of institutions have a role to play from local SME support and supply chain creation to primary technology leadership and breakthrough invention. Incentives should be strengthened to encourage maximum engagement from Universities in the third mission alongside Research and Education.3. Government should help facilitate what I have called Arrow Projects* to drive forward globally competitive technological ideas into real businesses. The Arrows should provide full support to the invention at the ‘Tip’ and should be uninhibited by Institutional status, geography or source of funding. Government should put its weight behind creating global scale through encouragement of real collaboration in fields in which we can win. A great debate has taken place on whether Britain can or should have an ambition to grow its manufacturing sector. It seems obvious that at least two basic conditions need to be met to have any chance of a long term sustainable manufacturing base:1. An invention culture which successfully translates from ‘mind to factory’.2. A globally competitive sense of timing and scale.While the UK can’t do everything, it has the capacity to do much, very well, if we do a better job of aligning our resources and put simply, on occasion, ‘get out of our own way’!The advances in knowledge in this era reveal a prize worth challenging our behaviours for and if UK were successful could herald a British Invention Revolution to rival the transformation witnessed in the 19th Century.