The government is to create a National Technology Strategy with the aim of boosting innovative technologies and, particularly, those that can be exported from the UK.
In a report called "Competing in the Global Economy: the Innovation Challenge", published by Department of Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, the government pledged to spend £150m on backing the NTS, including £90m to be spent on nanotechnology research.
The future success of the country will depend on its exploitation of new ideas, particularly in nanotechnology, biotechnology and information and communication technologies. Within a decade, the government aims to make the UK the leading country in Europe in terms of business research and development and patenting. The NTS will provide the framework needed and will focus support where needed.
Lord Sainsbury, minister for science and innovation, said in his introduction to the report that Hewitt had asked him, a year ago, to review all government policies that have an impact on innovation. He found that a "step change" is needed if the UK is to improve its productivity and compete against low-wage emerging economies.
French, German and US workers produce between a quarter and a third more for every hour they work than their UK counterparts. Education and a culture of "lifelong learning" will help to improve this situation, the report said.
The UK Patent Office will target small and medium-sized businesses in a campaign to raise awareness of patents and IP (intellectual property) and is developing a national IP crime strategy.
The government itself will become a more "intelligent consumer" in its own procurement, encouraging innovation though the £109bn it spends each year, while a program within the government's Small Business Service will promote innovation and knowledge transfer.
The transfer of knowledge between science and business must also be boosted, the DTI report said. This will be handled by the seven UK Research Councils, each of which covers a different area of scientific research. These are being given increased funding as a result of Lord Sainsbury's review.
Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service