Our Comment: Innovation Strategy sets out key role of R&D in tackling climate change

The Innovation Strategy was published by Government on 22 July having been jointly developed by BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) and Innovate UK. The Strategy sets out the pathway to the innovation funding announced during the budget earlier this year including a dedicated £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. The Strategy states that “Boosting innovation in the private sector is an essential part of the UK’s future prosperity and key to achieving UK objectives to be a force for good on global challenges around climate, biodiversity, prosperity and security. We are calling
on businesses to invest in innovation, getting British firms to the front of the pack“.

The Strategy details seven technology families of UK strength and opportunity which the Government sees as a priority in tackling these challenges, including energy and environment technologies. Under this pillar, the Strategy names renewable energy generation, nuclear generation, energy storage, nature-based climate solutions, nature restoration solutions, solutions that optimise and minimise resource consumption and large-scale carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) arrays. A new ‘Innovations Missions’ programme will be created through Innovate UK, aligned with tackling key challenges such as climate change and loss of biodiversity.

As part of the plans, five projects will receive a share of £127m through the Strength in Places Fund by UK Research and Innovation. This includes £18.3m for the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group. The funds will be used to create a world-leading industrial and academic research and development programme over the next four years, creating a cluster of new businesses in the Midlands, strengthening the supply chain and creating thousands of jobs in the region.

It will be followed by other key strategies which will set out further detail on the UK Government’s innovation
agenda, including the Net Zero Strategy in advance of COP26 in November.

Businesses in the West Midlands can already benefit from comprehensive support in relation to net zero innovation. We welcome businesses to join our Innovative Zero Carbon Working Group, a cross-sector network whose membership consists of practitioners from universities, local authorities, businesses and voluntary organisations from across the West Midlands. Our next online meeting is on 14 September. Our Sustainable Business Support Hub provides detailed information on sources of funding and support for businesses looking at net zero innovation and can be searched according to location. And look no further than the website of the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands as a one-stop shop for all you need to know on net zero innovation.

As low carbon lead for the West Midlands Virtual Innovation Team, SWM welcome the publication of the Innovation Strategy and hope that the Net Zero Strategy will provide details and assurance that all innovations supported by Government are compatible with the net zero transition.