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Imperial College convenes innovation leaders to boost Levelling Up

@ImperialCollege and @NCUBtweets convened academic and industry leaders from across the UK to discuss new and bold ideas to support the #LevellingUp agenda. 

Imperial has worked with the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) to bring together academic and industry leaders to develop bold ideas on how innovation can support the Government’s Levelling Up agenda which seeks to reduce inequalities.

The discussion was co-chaired by Imperial’s Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost Research and Enterprise and Dr Joe Marshall, NCUB Chief Executive and considered how best to build on existing clusters of excellence to drive economic growth in all areas of the UK. These already create pipelines of innovation into communities across the country through collaboration, knowledge sharing and translation of technology – as illustrated by Imperial’s interactive impact map.

Ideas participants discussed built on NCUB’s Research to Recovery Taskforce’s proposal to create Innovation Collaboration Zones across the UK that would join up both fiscal and regulatory levers – such as tax incentives and co-location of expertise and research facilities – in order to attract maximum R&D investment to a specific area, aligned with commercial missions. To take this forward, building on and scaling up existing initiatives, using R&D tax credits as a lever, considering skills development and targeting larger firms were discussed as essential.

The discussion also considered strategic public investment, such as Imperial’s suggestion for more series B funding – which takes a small business with an established team and product to the next stage of development – of which there is currently a lack, particularly for technology companies. This could be addressed with tax breaks for scale-up funds or by improving access to finance by incentivising pension funds to put a proportion of their investment into UK tech start-ups. Additional investment through grant funding and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) could be made available to support university-industry collaboration as an initial step to address this. HEIF is a proven instrument for funding impactful knowledge exchange activities successfully. Participants highlighted the need for a real-terms protection for HEIF to be considered, alongside removing the artificial cap on how much can be awarded to individual institutions.

The Government is expected to publish a new Innovation Strategy this summer and Imperial and NCUB will continue to engage.

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