Leader Views


Posted on:
23rd September, 2019

"Small businesses are as vital as scientists in discovering the next big breakthroughs."

The government is set to invest nearly £100 million to back the rising stars of science and innovation in small business. Here, Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore, outlines just how vital that investment is.

"Small businesses are as vital as scientists in discovering the next big breakthroughs."

"Small businesses are as vital as scientists in discovering the next big breakthroughs. They have the skills to take great ideas and turn them into real-life products and services - improving lives, driving up productivity and generating jobs and growth.

Scientists and researchers are at the frontline of solving some of the world’s greatest challenges from curing diseases to identifying treatments to help us live longer. But these breakthroughs can often be left on the shelf if our best minds are not supported in turning extraordinary concepts into commercially viable products and services.

Meanwhile, our small businesses are often well-placed, with the know-how, the agility and the creativity to push pioneering innovations forward.

And at the same time we know small business owners sometimes face challenges in having the space to grow, develop their ideas and gaining access to skills and knowledge.

As the Science and Universities Minister, I regularly visit top academic institutions and research centres who regularly tell me about the importance of collaboration; bringing together exceptional minds, technology and expertise.

So, it makes complete sense that universities across the country work as closely as possible with businesses, collaborating on knowledge and skills to help them grow and thrive. Doing so creates a supportive and inclusive research culture, enabling researchers and entrepreneurs alike to develop their full potential.

That’s why today (20 September), I am announcing £20 million funding to develop 20 new University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) across the country. These UEZs can offer small businesses the opportunities, support and encouragement to allow them to succeed not just tomorrow, but well into the future.

Small businesses will have the opportunity to conduct the research they need to, unlock their creativity and solve research and innovation challenges. They will be able to access vital specialist support and seize vast opportunities, all while helping to stimulate local growth and create jobs in the industries of the future from Bristol to Exeter to Teesside.

But it’s not just businesses that benefit, universities will gain access to fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and modern research methods helping them to continuously innovate and remain at the forefront of science and research.

There are already five University Enterprise Zones in Bradford, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, and the Bradfield Centre in Cambridge, where small enterprises are already doing incredible things. In Bristol, Open Bionics is turning disabilities into superheroes by developing 3d-printed bionic arms for adults and children, while RegenFARM in Exeter is developing agriculture tools to help farms transition to regenerative agriculture methods, which will improve soil health, carbon capture and profitability.

On their own small businesses and universities are producing incredible innovations, but research and business go hand in hand. Universities and businesses have a bright and prosperous future together producing more awesome and cutting-edge products and services, ensuring the UK retains its title as a global science superpower at the leading-edge of innovation and research.

Investing in our brightest stars remains crucial to reaching this goal. We are committed to investing at least 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027 - and plan to publish a roadmap this autumn setting out how we will realise this ambition.

There are 5.7 million small businesses in the UK, all with great ideas and the drive to succeed – and I would encourage every single one of them to look to our world-leading universities to help them on their journey to success."

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