Current Challenges in Innovation Policy for the UK and EU

When and Where

Monday, October 17, 2022 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Seminar Room 108N
Munk School
1 Devonshire Place Toronto, ON M5S 3K7


Professor Elvira Uyarra, The University of Manchester
Professor Kieron Flanagan, The University of Manchester


Join us on Monday, October 17 as the Innovation Policy Lab Speaker Series is joined by two colleagues from the University of Manchester who will discuss the current challenges in innovation in the UK and the EU.

Topics include:

Towards a place and challenge-based innovation policy - Professor Elvira Uyarra, The University of Manchester

Innovation policy debates increasingly recognise societal challenges as drivers for innovation policy. This has motivated a ‘normative turn’ that advocates greater challenge orientation in innovation policy and targeted policies to articulate societal needs in order to deliver better, not just more, innovations. In parallel, regional innovation policy agendas such as the EU smart specialisation focus on selectively building on unique place-specific characteristics and assets, but it is somewhat agnostic about the direction of innovation. While mission oriented and transformative innovation policy agendas have been criticised for their lack of attention to context and the ‘messy realities’ of policy implementation, smart specialisation has been seen as too incremental, narrowing down the options and approaches for less developed regions, and neglecting more transformative means of value capture. This talk will bring together these agendas, their key challenges and shortcomings, and the need for an integrated place-based innovation policy.

What’s the problem with UK science and innovation policy? - Professor Kieron Flanagan, The University of Manchester

The UK was an industrial and scientific pioneer. Yet for nearly as long, the country has fretted about falling behind industrial and technological competitors. For decades the UK’s not terribly impressive R&D/GDP ratio of around 1.7% has resisted all attempts to improve it. For historical reasons, UK government R&D spending is unusually biased towards the ‘basic’ end of the spectrum by international standards, and the geographical distribution of that spending is highly concentrated on a small number of institutions in a few places – the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London. Now the UK is once again aiming to transform its technological fortunes, with increases in public spending in the pipeline and a target of 2.4% of GDP to be spent on R&D by 2027. The hope is that this additional R&D effort will help ‘rebalance’ regional growth prospects and drive improvements in productivity. This talk will examine why the UK seems to be stuck, what progress has been made in unsticking it, and will draw out some broader questions about why we should fund scientific and technological research and what we should hope to gain from it.