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UK firms focus on innovation as Brexit looms

Most UK firms plan to increase or maintain innovation spending in order to drive business growth as the UK moves towards Brexit, according to new research.

A CBI survey of over 800 businesses, conducted with the support of Deloitte and Hays, has found that 70% of respondents plan to increase or maintain their innovation spending following the vote to leave the EU. Only 7% plan to reduce their investment.

Last year, UK businesses invested almost £21bn on innovation; the UK is currently rated 10th in the world for innovation. The top priorities for encouraging more effective innovation, according to the firms polled, are: more collaboration and partnership (65%), greater access to technical skills (68%) and increased Government support (56%).

Asked about their own approach to innovation, 44% of businesses said their firms were pioneers in innovation (early adopters and developers), 42% described themselves as experimenters and 13% said they were followers.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-general, said: 

"Innovation is the nucleus of future economic and social development ... As we prepare to depart the EU, this shows that firms are rolling up their sleeves and looking to make the best of Brexit."

In this week's Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund which is to be spent on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years.

Also this week, prime minister Theresa May announced a review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) - aimed at boosting innovation and helping more small firms bring new technologies to market.

The SBRI, managed by Innovate UK, is a cross-Government programme that enables small firms to bid for Government research and development contracts to develop new technologies.

This initiative provides companies with £50,000 to £100,000 to test an idea, and then up to £1 million to develop prototypes. Since 2009, the programme has provided over £330 million of contracts. There is more information on the Innovate UK website.

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