Policymakers, academics and industry representatives discussed how to improve the UK’s competitiveness at a new landmark conference last week.

Hosted by Imperial College Business School, the Faculty of Engineering and Lord Sainsbury of Turville at ScaleSpace on Imperial’s White City Innovation Campus, the conference brought together senior figures from across academia, business and government to discuss how to increase UK growth and competitiveness in three key UK sectors: Biopharmaceuticals, Medtech and Telecommunications. 

Lord Sainsbury set the scene of persistent low growth among the G7 countries. Setting out a strategy for growth, he called for more targeted understanding of the needs and opportunities for particular sectors, especially those that can make a difference in terms of total value added and productivity. Professor Francisco Veloso added that policies and actions on R&D, skills, finance, demand support for growth-promising sectors and the build-up of manufacturing capabilities can be better targeted. These actions would be more impactful if developed through collaborative endeavours between industry, academia and government, such as the Conference. 

Learning from key competitors 

Professor John Paul MacDuffie discussing how US universities have built on research on industrial sectors to help boost manufacturing during periods of decline. 

Professor Arnoud de Meyer, Emeritus Professor at Singapore Management University, explained how Singapore?s concerted and targeted industrial policy helped the country to transform key industries and attract high-quality jobs. Professor John Paul MacDuffie, Professor of Management from the Wharton Business School of UPenn, discussed how the US has approached efforts to develop industrial policy in key areas of semiconductors and pharmaceuticals, including the renewed focus to create new high-tech opportunities for parts of the country worst hit by industrial decline.

UK competitive advantage

Imperial researchers from the Business School and the Faculty of Engineering presented cutting-edge research into how the UK can make the most of its competitive advantage in the three key sectors of Biopharmaceuticals, Medtech and Telecommunications. 

Professor James Barlow, Professor of Technology and Innovation Management (Healthcare) from Imperial College Business School, presented the findings of the group looking at the UK’s biopharmaceuticals sector. Professor Anthony Bull, Professor of Musculoskeletal Mechanics from the Department of Bioengineering, presented work on behalf of the group led by Professor James Moore Jr, Bagrit & RAEng Chair in Medical Device Design from the Department of Bioengineering, who has undertaken a study of the UK’s Medtech sector. Professor Chris Tucci, Professor of Digital Strategy & Innovation in Imperial College Business School, and Dr Marika Iivari, visiting researcher in Imperial College Business School, presented their analysis of the UK telecommunications sector which has been carried out in partnership with Professor Eric Yeatman, Head of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department. The full studies will be published before the summer to continue the conversation on how UK innovation and growth can be supported. 

Panel discussions following the biopharmaceuticals presentation by Professor James Barlow, with Dr Virginia Acha, Associate VP of Global Regulatory Policy at MSD, outlining the challenges faced by healthcare systems and increased burden of disease.

Panels with representatives from multinational R&D-performing businesses, investors, SMEs and regulators across the three key sectors responded to the Imperial studies with their own unique perspectives of where the UK can make the most impact in supporting business innovation and growth.  

Future UK innovation 

The conference closed with discussions on how the UK can ensure future economic growth. Lower R&D investment than that of competitors like Germany, the US and Japan and relatively low numbers of UK researchers moving into industry are in stark contrast to the UK and other OECD countries, according to Dr Carlos Lopez-Gomez, Head of Policy Links in the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing, from the findings of the Innovation report 2023

In a lively discussion, building greater absorptive capacity within research organisations to take advantage of future opportunities, greater sharing of data between academia and businesses to identify areas of friction in supporting innovation and using government procurement to support innovation were highlighted as key issues to enable greater UK growth. 

White City Innovation District 

Imperial?s White City Campus anchors the White City Innovation District which is fast emerging as a global economic and cultural hotspot in West London. At White City, we are building a strong and thriving innovation eco-system inspiring a new generation of primary and secondary school students to pursue STEM skills, co-locating university R&D with industrial collaborators and supporting start-ups and spin outs to accelerate growth.

As an anchor to the White City Innovation District, Imperial?s research expertise and presence attracts commercial and research partners to the area like L?Oréal, Novartis and Autolus, providing jobs and accommodation for students, staff and workers on site.


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