Innovation Strategy: UK Government bets on nature-based climate solutions and CCUS

Image: Innovate UK

Published today (22 July), the Strategy has been jointly developed by Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), plotting a pathway to the funding for innovation promised at this year’s Budget. Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised that annual public spending on R&D would increase to £22bn and launched a dedicated £1bn Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio.

The strategy states that R&D plays “an essential part of our country’s future prosperity” and is “key to achieving key domestic priorities, from tackling climate change and boosting productivity, to levelling up opportunities across the UK and supporting businesses out of the pandemic.”

Outlined in the document are seven strategic technology areas which the Government sees as a priority in tackling these pressing challenges, energy and environment technologies being one.

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.

The Strategy commits the Government to managing the risks associated with building R&D capability, incubation, adoption and industrialisation in these areas. Its plans for addressing these risks include convening partnerships between business and academia; investing alongside businesses and prioritising key technologies, thus building confidence in the direction of travel and striving to close funding gaps.

However, the Strategy does not set out any new disclosure mandates for businesses, or changes to tax structures. It also does not outline how the Government will ensure that all innovations it supports are compatible with the net-zero transition. Further details are expected to be confirmed by the Treasury later this year, and in a string of forthcoming strategies in the innovation and environment spaces.

Among the moves that have been confirmed are:

  • The formation of a new Business Innovation Forum
  • A consultation on how regulation can ensure that the UK can get the best value from innovation
  • The launch of a new online finance and innovation hub, jointly run by Innovate UK and the British Business Bank, to run for 12 months
  • A £127m allocation through the Strength in Places Fund
  • A £25m allocation through the Connecting Capability Fund
  • A drive to jointly raise £59m with the private sector for new Prosperity Partnerships
  • The formation of new ‘High Potential Individual’ and ‘Scale-up’ visa routes

Also confirmed is a commitment to establish a new ‘Innovations Missions’ programme through Innovate UK, ensuring that its role and remit is aligned with tackling key challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

BEIS Seretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK can look back on a proud history of changing the world through innovation. From the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year, the impact on our everyday lives is undeniable.

“That spirit of discovery is still alive in this country today, but we have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.

“The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race.

“Through this long-term plan, we want to rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery, helping businesses to seize the vast opportunities that innovation can bring.

“If we get this right, we can build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow, and ensure British firms are at the front of the pack to turn world-leading science into new products and services that are successful in international markets.”

The Innovation Strategy is one of the many policy documents the Climate Change Committee (CCC) had been pushing the Government to launch ahead of Parliament’s summer recess, which begins today. Its publication follows on from the Transport Decarbonisation Plan last week, but the Heat and Buildings Strategy has been pushed back to autumn. At the time of writing, there is a still a chance that the Hydrogen Strategy may be published before the recess begins.

Sarah George

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