The Academy welcomes the publication of Innovation Nation, the Innovation White Paper, and in particular the more holistic understanding of innovation that it signals from Government. Although this new view of innovation has not yet been converted into firm policies, the move away from reliance on input metrics, such as R&D spend, for measuring the amount of innovation in the UK is important.

“As the UK's Academy for Engineering, we find it very worrying that there is so little understanding in the White Paper of the role of engineers and engineering in innovation and turning innovative ideas into reality,” says Academy Vice President Dr Sue Ion. “Science, which is mentioned regularly, is concerned with understanding the world we live in. Engineering, however, is concerned with changing and adapting the world we live in, which is inextricably linked to innovation.”

The Academy particularly welcomes the trialing of "Innovation Vouchers" for SMEs to "buy" initial engagement with universities and colleges. Our work in industry/academia relationships suggests that this will be welcomed by universities and SMEs alike. However, the target of 500 businesses receiving vouchers in the first year rising to 1000 by 2011 is not ambitious enough.

It is important for UK Innovation that the work of the FCO's Science and Innovation Network is protected and that DIUS is to take responsibility for it. This means that the information that the network feeds back to the UK will be available to the Department best able to make use of it.

“We are particularly concerned about the Government’s understanding and interpretation of engineering research,” says Dr Ion. “Contrary to the view expressed in the White Paper, the current review of the Research Assessment Exercise (which allocates funding to universities based on the excellence of research carried out) will value applied and practice-based research even less than the current system, undermining the potential for engineering research to make a real economic impact by meeting industry's needs in the UK. Current proposals to assess research quality using metrics such as citation analysisdiscriminate against this type of research as it generates far fewer citations than pure science research, but has a demonstrably more significant impact on the UK economy and UK jobs.”

Notes for editors

  1. Innovation Nation was published on 13 March 2008 by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636