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Michelle Donelan aims high on tech innovation growth

The science, innovation and technology secretary wants the UK to match US VC investment as a proportion of GDP

Science, innovation and technology secretary Michelle Donelan has unveiled a new initiative to support UK innovation.

The scale-up forum capitalises on government’s power to bring together leading figures from across the UK’s growing science and technology sector.

Discussing the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), she said: “For the first time, the innovative science and tech startups that are fuelling our economy have a dedicated department, with a clear north star in the form of the Science and Technology Framework. We are on a mission, a mission to be the powerhouse of growth.

“Entrepreneurs and businesses don’t need us politicians telling them what is good for them – they need us to enable them to seize the opportunities that we are creating,” added Donelan.

During her speech, she said UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has set out a commitment to support firms of all sizes to invest in the innovation they need to scale. “UKRI will simplify and expand its support for innovative, growing firms across the country, with Innovate UK aiming to reach a million innovators by the end of the year, and to halve the average time it takes companies to go from application to receiving grant funding – applying a practical, proactive, pro-business approach that lifts up British talent in ways that make a tangible difference.”

Donelan added that the UK is delivering on its commitment to become a science and technology superpower by 2030. “I believe there has never been a better time to be a science and tech entrepreneur wanting to scale-up across the UK and beyond,” she said. 

However, to succeed, Donelan emphasised the need for new businesses to continue to set up in the UK. “We do have the right ingredients to become a scale-up superpower if we tap into our unlocked potential – particularly those companies on the cusp of scaling,” she said. “Despite leading Europe, we need to make sure our future unicorns continue to make the UK their home.”

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Donelan said businesses looking to scale-up should not have to leave the UK to get the investment they need. “Now is the time to cement the UK’s reputation as the most stable, the most innovative and the most rewarding place to invest and deliver on our science and tech superpower ambitions,” she added.

Her goal is that in the 2030s, by unlocking funding, the UK will triple the rate at which new unicorns are created since 2010. “I believe the UK should account for at least 50% of all new unicorns created by Europe as a whole, a true scale-up powerhouse, where opportunity and high-skilled jobs fuel economic growth across the country – including outside cities,” said Donelan, adding that her ambition is for the UK to match US levels of venture capital (VC) investment as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).

“My ambition is that the UK should close the gap on the US, matching its current levels of VC investment as a share of GDP by 2030 – about £5bn per year extra.”

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