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Government launches plan for smart use of knowledge and innovation

Strategy sets out how Westminster can harness and achieve better value from £104bn worth of innovation and knowledge assets within central government

The government has published an implementation strategy for how to take advantage of innovation within Westminster.

 The Mackintosh report sets out how greater value can be achieved from using innovation and ideas already in place within central government.

“The UK’s public sector is a remarkable source of innovation,” said the report. “It is bursting with potential, and rich with ideas and insights that could help to shape the future of our country as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

“However, we need to manage these so-called ‘knowledge assets’ wisely. Only by investing in them properly – giving them the attention and resources they need – will they deliver the enormous benefits they offer to our economy and society, boosting productivity and improving the quality of life in the UK.”

The report estimates that £104bn of knowledge assets are held by central government and the strategy aims to support public sector organisations to manage them effectively and achieve greater value. 

The strategy is built around three pillars, the first being to establish and share good practice for knowledge asset management in the public sector.

This will include new guidance for organisations on how to “identity, manage and derive maximum value from public sector knowledge assets”, said the report.

The government will also create a knowledge and innovation assets bank, which will capture and “share intelligence on high potential opportunities across government, allowing knowledge asset holders and innovators to connect and pursue opportunities”.

To support this, the government is creating the Government Office for Technology Transfer, which will sit beneath the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The unit will be responsible for working with public sector organisations to identify promising knowledge asset opportunities and provide specialist support.

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“It will exercise strategic cross-government leadership and increase awareness and capability, including through training and the facilitation of better networks for public sector innovators,” the report said. “This includes working together with existing areas of expertise and capability in government, such as the Intellectual Property Office.”

The government will also provide up to £40m in new funding for investment in public sector knowledge assets.

There will be new incentives for public sector organisations to encourage exploitation of knowledge and innovation assets. This includes updated HM Treasury budgeting guidance, aiming to make it easier for departments to keep the proceeds from successful innovation, as well as encouraging better recognition and reward for innovators and better training across the civil service.

The idea of capitalising on knowledge assets within government was first floated in a report published alongside the 2018 Budget, and this latest report follows on from that original idea.

“Underpinning this implementation strategy is a vision where public sector organisations use the knowledge, skills and capabilities they develop while fulfilling their public purpose to have broader applicability and impact, thereby catalysing innovation, driving productivity and growth, and improving public services and finances,” said the report.

It said there are areas of “high potential growth”, including digital health and agritech, where by introducing good practice, incentives and support now, the government “can ensure public sector organisations are best prepared to make the most of these and future opportunities”.

It added: “Realising these benefits will, however, take time and must therefore be part of a long-term initiative.”

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