Blog Type, IPT Blog | April 2017

The Importance of the Innovation Principle

On Tuesday 25 April 2017 the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) hosted a breakfast meeting on the topic ‘The Importance of the Innovation Principle’. The event brought together industry experts and parliamentarians to discuss the core principles of innovation, how the Innovation Principle can positively contribute to UK policymaking and how spending on research and development in innovation can help UK business remain competitive and lead within global markets.

The breakfast meeting was chaired by Derek Thomas MP, a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, with Paul Leonard, Head of Innovation and Technology Policy at BASF, as speaker.

The Innovation Principle entails taking into account the impact on research and innovation in the process of developing and reviewing regulation in all policy domains. The principle arose from the European Risk Forum and was endorsed by 22 CEO’s who signed a letter to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker calling for support. The Innovative Principle is not a scientific principle and in seeking to foster innovation in decision making has a central political prerogative. The development of an Innovation Principle serves to give innovation an identity and brand to support it.

In the fiscal year ending June 2016, UK companies invested £16.5 billion in research and development, accounting for 4% of the global total and the eighth highest investment by country[1]. A crucial driving force behind the Innovation Principle is to help bring new ideas to market in a supportive environment, promoting investment in research and development.

Throughout the discussion a notable theme was how to balance the Innovation Principle and the Precautionary Principle. It was discussed that they could act in whereby regulation tackles short-term dangers while the Innovation Principles acts to alleviate long-term concerns. It was proposed that this could be achieved by avoiding prescriptive regulation, focusing on avoiding certain outcomes but allowing these to be achieved through a variety of technological pathways and processes rather than a uniform approach.

Creating an environment suitable for innovation was also a prominent topic. Given that innovative requires varying levels of risk taking, attendees considered finding ways to promote innovation in small, controlled environments to benefit consumers and beneficiaries.

The United Kingdom boasts some of the best scientific institutions in the world and attendees discussed the prospects for innovation and the Innovation Principle in the Post-Brexit environment. The referendum result offers an opportunity to assess the role the UK plays in global innovation and whether the UK could take a lead in advocating the Innovation Principle. It was noted that government alone cannot set the agenda on innovation, but can act as a network partner and enabling force to bolster international knowledge networks and facilitate big projects to unlock maximum energy and activity in top sectors.

In closing, it was noted that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up in jobs that do not exist today. As the UK heads into an election, developing strategies to tackle the long-term uncertainty this presents is a major challenge for future policymakers.

Words by James Heyburn