How SME innovation could save the UK economy

Last week, PatSnap took to the road – to Malvern in fact – in order to explore some of the innovation taking place in the more rural areas of the United Kingdom, away from the smoke and bustle of London. Surprisingly (for Londoners at least!), there are many hives of intense innovative activity all around the country. Who would have thought, for example, that among the green hills of Malvern, an area of outstanding natural beauty, you’d also find yourself right in the heart of a British cyber-valley?

Malvern Festival of Innovation

Cue, then, the nationally-acclaimed Malvern Festival of Innovation, and its themed day, entitled ‘The Business of Innovating.’ The aim of this free-to-attend event was to provide start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators with vital information about protecting intellectual property, securing funding or expanding overseas, amongst other topics. It was encouraging to see Kevin Baughan from Innovate UK opening the day with his keynote, giving a UK perspective on innovation.

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Events such as these, in conjunction with support from government agencies such as Innovate UK, will be the lifeblood for the future UK economy. Stimulating innovation within SMEs will be the bedrock for shoring up the UK’s performance and maintaining competitiveness in the face of economic headwinds, not least of course, as a result of the looming spectre of Brexit. Innovative SMEs of today could be the UK R&D powerhouses of tomorrow - and many a damaged economy in the past has been repaired by fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation within the SME sector.

Government incentives

It’s why it is also important to highlight some of the other incentives that are available to further bolster this spirit of invention. For example, although many are already aware that tax relief is available for R&D projects, it was fascinating to learn during the Malvern event that the benefits of this scheme are much wider reaching than one would initially think. One of the key takeaways was that breaks could be applicable for R&D in verticals far beyond the ‘traditional view’ that implies it is only relevant to scientists and technicians in the lab. Indeed, claims have been successfully completed in areas as diverse as marketing and lead generation, software and web development, food, construction and product design.    

Furthermore, as PWC reports, R&D tax credits have been substantially increased over recent years. It is deeply encouraging to see the acknowledgement of innovation and R&D as a critical pillar within the structure of the economy. However, the government may want to consider going further, as well as giving it more of a promotional push if SMEs are to make use of the incentive - and in order to place the UK in a stronger economic position in the event of something that’s even more feared than Brexit, namely ‘hard Brexit,’ which would involve the most dramatic severance from the economies of Europe. In this case, we will all have to group together the support the cause of driving innovation - supporting inventors, entrepreneurs and SMEs with help, advice and support in order to enable them to thrive in a world of turbulence and uncertainty.

Start thinking about IP strategy early

Of course, these innovative SMEs of today will want to consider their IP strategy as soon as possible. It’s often tempting to think that intellectual property is irrelevant in the early days, but this is a fallacy. A robust approach to IP (especially for inventive, R&D driven companies) will be essential in order to prove to investors further down the line that a particular company – your organization – is worth investing in. For example, it is believed that intangible assets are now worth over 70% of the total value of a company, and IP is a huge chunk of that. By placing IP at the heart of an innovation strategy, SMEs can save themselves from a big headache further down the line, when they may have to play catch up instead.

Find out more on business value and investment role of IP