Theresa May to copy the US model to boost innovation in Britain

Speaking at CBI’s annual conference, the prime minister pledged to improve the chances of UK startups becoming scaleups

Theresa May to copy the US model to boost innovation in Britain

Photo credit: Vector_brothers/

Given that several British cities have recently been celebrated for their ability to nurture innovation, you may be surprised to hear that the UK is only ranked as the 13th best country in the world for startups looking to become scaleups, according to the OECD. Fortunately, Theresa May seems to have a plan for Blighty to climb towards the top of the list.

Earlier this morning, the prime minister announced several initiatives to boost the success rate of British startups during a speech at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the non-profit organisation championing British businesses. “I want us to turn our bright startups into successful scaleups by backing them for the long-term,” she said. “There is no point having great ideas, great products, great startups, if you can’t get the investment you need to grow your business here.”

The first step in her plan was to announce that the Treasury is to lead a new patient capital review aimed at finding out what could be holding enterprises back. The review will be conducted by a panel of experts lead by Sir Damon Buffini, the governor of the Wellcome Trust, the biomedical research charity.

And the prime minister didn’t stop there. Drawing upon the example of the US government driving innovation and commissioning technologies like touchscreens and voice-recognition software used in smartphones, May pledged to look into how her government could follow in the country’s footsteps. To do that, she announced that the government will review the Small Business Research Initiative, an Innovate UK programme, to enable it to help more innovators get their first break. The review is to report back next year.

The prime minister also announced that the government will invest an extra £2bn per year in research and development to “help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and tech.” She explained: “A new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will direct some of that investment to scientific research and the development of a number of priority technologies in particular, helping to address Britain’s historic weakness on commercialisation and turning our world-leading research into long-term success.”

When May moved into Number 10 earlier this summer, the startup community responded with cautious optimism. And while it remains to be seen how successful her new initiatives will be, for now it seems that the optimism may have been well-founded.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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