Innovation Strategy


The role of innovation in creating our future

Indro Mukerjee

Indro Mukerjee is the Chief Executive Officer of Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. He has a strong personal interest in the development of skills for industry and getting the best talent pipeline developed. He co-founded the UK Electronics Skills Foundation, which has developed into an innovative and successful partnership between industry and academia encouraging bright, young students to develop careers in the UK electronic systems industry. He also served on the SEMTA (now Enginuity) board for nine years, where he was chair of the committee managing its investment fund.


  • Innovation will play a crucial role in creating our future as a country
  • We must inspire the brightest and the best to become successful innovators
  • We need to be aware of emerging technologies, markets and industries
  • Successful innovation is more than good science: it involves commercial skills as well
  • Innovate UK is looking to bring on a new generation of innovators.

This is a timely moment to focus on innovation because the UK really needs to get through the pandemic we are in and look to the future. If we aspire to a future of prosperity, good health and respect for the planet, as well as one of fairness, diversity and equality, innovation will play a crucial role in helping to create this future. Indeed, the Government’s innovation strategy is called ‘Leading the Future by Creating it’ – which is an apt description of what we do as innovators.

This is my first public sector role – my background is in business. I have a huge amount of respect for research, but my passion is to support the people who translate that into things that bring prosperity, give people jobs and help to improve our society. So I am very focussed on supporting innovation through and in British business. We are the UK’s innovation agency, and we help drive productivity and economic growth. By helping businesses develop and realise the potential of new ideas – including those from our very substantial science research base – we support the economy.

There is a very substantial innovation ecosystem in the UK. Trying to control it would be a very outmoded, Victorian approach.

Inspire, involve, invest

There are three words that illustrate the way we want to work with people: inspire, involve and invest. We want to inspire the brightest and the best, we want the best innovators to come through the system and to become successful.

We want to involve a wide range of people and organisations because it is crucial to harness everything within our very substantial ecosystem.

So we will involve these different communities in our efforts. We also invest both cash and non-cash resources in order to create impact.

We have just launched our Action Plan for Business Innovation. This focusses on five themes. First, innovation is about building the future. So we must be open to, and aware of, new markets, new technologies and new industries. Our future is concerned with making things better for people and for the planet.

The second theme is managing growth at scale. The UK has a fantastic science base. There are many good examples of science being translated into business success – and I would like to see much more. The job of Innovate UK is to support much more translation so that businesses can scale-up and become successful in the UK. To do so, more than pure science skills will be required: commercial skills, sales and marketing, product management – these are not after-thoughts, these are often the difference between success and failure.

 The global market

The third theme concerns global opportunities. Some 99% of any market is outside the UK. For sure, we need to focus on our home market and do a better job here by leveraging public/private opportunities for SMEs in particular. Yet there is a lot to do in terms of export and helping British business to really become successful in selling into international markets.

There is a very substantial innovation ecosystem in the UK. Trying to control it would be a waste of time in my view. That would be a very outmoded, Victorian approach. Innovate UK will, instead, provide a platform to convene this ecosystem, in order to make it into a community that can work together in partnerships.

The last theme is concerned with the effective use of Government levers. There are many opportunities to connect SMEs in particular with Government use of technology. Making the most of this would benefit both sides, as well as the economy overall.

These five themes are based on six foundations. The first is the science and research strength we have in the UK. The next is design, which is often an under-considered aspect of innovation. Further, societal impact and responsible innovation have to be integrated, because technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fields such as the life sciences have to be developed in a responsible way as we go forward with innovations.

People and skills

Then, successfully addressing the innovation, talent and skills pipeline will be crucial. A significant area is the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, which is one of the secret weapons of the UK. If we can use that properly, if we can mine the layers of talent that would not otherwise be identified in order to maximise their abilities as innovators and entrepreneurs, we can do much better as a country. Very importantly, there is the issue of place and levelling up, which is a very important driver. 

Going forward, Innovate UK is looking to bring on a new generation of innovators. We will need role models who will stimulate young people to be, not just Premier League footballers or contestants on Britain’s Got Talent, but innovators, engineers, entrepreneurs, and successful business people.

I see Innovate UK as a service to UK business, and one which should have a very accessible shopfront for us to serve its needs across our wide range of cash and non-cash support products and services. I am determined that we will work efficiently and with a perpetual desire to improve what we do and how we do it.

A significant area is the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda. If we can use that properly, if we can mine the layers of talent that would not otherwise be identified, we can do much better as a country.