Pioneering Bristol firms could miss out under Govt’s new Innovation Strategy, warns Metro Mayor

July 29, 2021

The government’s new Innovation Strategy, which aims to turbo charge the UK’s most pioneering businesses, will fall flat unless its key decisions are devolved to the regions, according to West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris.

In his latest broadside against what he sees as over control by Westminster, the Labour mayor said there was a danger that research budgets would be doled out by ministers rather than those close to where the real innovation was taking place. 

“From Brunel to Concorde our region has always been at the heart of innovation,” Mayor Morris said.

“I will always champion our engineers, scientists and innovators. If the Prime Minister had asked, I would have told him how the West of England is a global leader in quantum computing and hi-tech manufacturing using composite materials.

“We need a laser-like focus on what our region does best to get the very best results bringing high-skilled jobs to our region in turn helping boost UK plc.”

He said the Innovation Strategy was just the latest government plan created in Whitehall, rather than the regions.

In it the government lays out how it will specify ‘innovation missions’ to set the direction for science at a national level.

There would also be greater ministerial control than ever before with a new committee chaired by the Prime Minister, leading to concerns about additional centralisation and more political control of research budgets.

“There’s a pattern emerging here and I don’t want to see money diverted towards Tory pet projects,” Mayor Norris, pictured, added. 

“It needs to go to the best science. There needs to be much greater dialogue with metro mayors on what our key industrial and innovation priorities are.

“We in the West of England know what our economy needs and the government shouldn’t be working in splendid isolation. That’s not a recipe for success.”

He said experts had warned that the government needed to take the opportunity to help unlock the potential of the UK’s regions. 

The Russell Group of the UK’s top universities, which includes Bristol, highlighted the need to support existing and new regional innovation clusters with research-intensive universities at their heart, to bring “high-skilled jobs and investment to all regions of the country”.

The West of England Metro Mayor leads the combined authority covering Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and has powers over jobs, housing and transport backed by a 30-year investment fund of £900m.


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