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UK gov unveils 'Innovation Nation' plans

Innovationation™? Innov(ation)2™?

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Today the new Brownite gov Departments of Innovation, Universities, Skills, Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform have announced sweeping new plans to make the UK rich and powerful. The UK needs to be rich and powerful, not just for fun, but so that it can "tackle major challenges like climate change".

We will be made rich and powerful enough to tackle climate change and global poverty - and let's face it, you would need to be quite rich and powerful to do that, probably taking over the whole world - by becoming an "Innovation Nation". The fact that this phrase sort of rhymes is purely a coincidence.

Becoming an Innovationation™ means, of course, that the UK must become "the best place in the world to run an innovative business or public service" - or perhaps an innovative "third sector"* outfit.

The UK will do this by "unlocking talent" and then, having unlocked it, "harnessing" it. The key thing with unlocked talent is that it mustn't be allowed to run about unharnessed.

This will be done by "harnessing the power of government spending to create demand for innovative products and services". Or in other words the government will buy stuff which it considers to be innovative, which will mean innovative stuff will be there to buy, which will of course mean that people other than the government will buy it. Then the government will tax everyone involved, and use the cash to buy new innovative things, and a super-powerful economic feedback loop will race away until we're all so rich we have zeppelin yachts in different colours to go with our socks.

For practical purposes, the definition of an innovative thing would seem to be one produced by an SME. (The US government believes this too, sometimes with hilarious results.) Chancellor Darling said in his Budget that he would "look into the practicality" of having a quota for SMEs to win 30 per cent of "all public sector business". Sort of cast your pork on the waters, style of thing.

Some of you will no doubt be thinking that Innov(ation)2™ must mean technological innovation. Well, kind of: but there are aren't that many people around in old Blighty who know anything about technology or science. Thus, from the press release:

Traditionally, the UK's innovation policy has been concentrated on high-tech manufacturing. While this will remain vitally important**, it is argued that increasingly innovation applies to a wider range of products, services, business processes, models, marketing and enabling technologies used by companies, organisations, industries and sectors.

In order to provide innovation motivation stimulation to the nation, the government will provide:

  • Five new Innovation Platforms
  • 1,000 Innovation Vouchers every year
  • Twice as many Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
  • A pilot workforce talent unlocking fund
  • A National Skills Academy for "every major sector of the economy" (see below)
  • An Innovation Index to measure UK innovation
  • Innovation Partnerships (not the same as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships)
  • Business Link Advisor training for SMEs
  • An annual government Innovation Review

Should you wish to find out what an innovation voucher is, you can read the whole thing here (large fist-eatingly dull government pdf).®

Bootnote

*What, you didn't know about the third sector? Well, there's private sector (people who do stuff for money which is given to them as a matter of choice by customers, investors etc) and public sector (people who do stuff for money which is taken away from private-sector people whether they like it or not). The third sector is meant to be people who do stuff for free, eg charidee volunteers, NGOs, nonprofits etc. (Though, in fact, many such organisations contain people who take money for doing what they do. The money is sometimes freely given as in the private sector, and is sometimes compulsory donations via the Treasury as in the public sector.) Read more about it at the public-sector Office of the Third Sector, new since 2006.

We think that there must also be a fourth sector (nominally private sector outfit which either works solely for the gov or was created with tax money and/or is a monopoly - or all of the above - so, in fact, is not really private sector at all) and perhaps a fifth sector (people who get tax money but don't do anything for it). Etc etc.

**With subtitles: this will now be abandoned.

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