Is UK innovation a competitive advantage?

As the UK prepares to leave the EU there are encouraging signs for the UK in its innovation rating, which means that the country is well placed to compete on the international markets which will become ever more important after Brexit, writes Natasha Levanti

The 2016 European Innovation Scoreboard, was released on 14 July. As infrastructure is dependent on innovation to meet or exceed future demands, the scoreboard provides a unique opportunity to compare levels of innovation and glean some insight into the UK’s innovative potential. It is of particular importance as the UK prepares to leave EU membership, as it's key to global competitiveness.

In this year’s ranking, featured in the photo gallery above, Sweden is the innovation leader amongst EU members, followed by Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. The United Kingdom, was ranked as a 'strong innovator', in eighth position amongst EU countries, remaining above the average level of innovation within the 28 member states of the European Union.

It is intriguing to note the comparative performance of Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg and other non-EU countries in the scoreboard. Switzerland has the highest ranking of all countries measured for innovation, while Luxembourg is ranked as a 'strong innovator' and Norway is considered a 'moderate innovator'.

When comparing countries’ level of innovation, the level of public as well as private support for research and development (in gallery above) must be considered. When this is examined in correlation to the ranking of innovativeness, the UK shines. With the 2016 amount of public or private investment in research and development in the UK, it is clear that the country is able to maximise potential for innovation. 

Ranking 12th out of the EU, 28th for business R&D funding, and 15th for public R & D funding, the UK achieved eighth place for innovation amongst the EU 28. This implies not only that the UK is able to efficiently use funds, but that as a society the UK embraces entrepreneurial or innovative thinking.

Going forward, harnessing this innovation potential fully will be a key way to increase competitiveness despite current business uncertainty, helping to secure a business’s position in key markets.

While it is apparent in the 2016 European Innovation Scoreboard that the UK utilises what funding is available effectively, it is vital that going forward that further innovation is cultivated, not just through monetary funding but also in business mentality. 

Infrastructure must embrace innovation, maximising what is available to exceed client expectations. While rumours abound regarding the impact that Brexit uncertainty will have on project funding, it is not business as usual. Though innovation does require a degree of resource investment, embracing the high potential of innovation in infrastructure will set businesses apart, with some businesses being able to better deliver quality products that have long-term cost benefits to clients.

Until a suitable trade agreement is reached with the EU as well as trade agreements settled with other countries currently under EU agreements, the UK must not lapse into habitually doing what has always been done, but must push past the impossible to continue to move the industry and the UK forward.

In his remarks following the EU referendum, David Cameron concentrated on the strength of the UK going forward. He said that the UK was "a great trading nation, with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity respected the world over.” This entrepreneurial and innovation spirit will need to continue to conquer future challenges.

Given the uncertainty that has developed in the post-referendum period, innovation is a key way through which Britain can retain and grow global competitiveness.