Imagination launches innovation manifesto for UK

Imagination launches innovation manifesto for UK

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By Nick Flaherty

UK IP developer Imagination Technologies has launched a ‘manifesto’ for innovation to highlight the critical role of the semiconductor industry.

Despite the chip shortage and the increased focus on sovereign chip production, “The UK’s Innovation Future”, instead puts the emphasis on R&D and design.

“While semiconductors have long been an integral part of the technology supply chain, policymakers have only recently begun to wake up to their strategic importance. Responding to global shortages that have demonstrated like never before the critical role played by chips in today’s increasingly digital economy, governments in the EU, the US, China, and Japan have all recently announced measures to strengthen their domestic semiconductor industries through public investment, incentives for business, and public-private partnerships,” said Tim Mamtora, Chief of Innovation at Imagination Technologies.

“The British government has been rather late in arriving to the party, so far only announcing a review of public support for the sector rather than any concrete measures,” he points out. “While Imagination welcomes the government’s desire to get behind the semiconductor industry, we believe it is crucial that this support focuses on chip design and innovation, rather than manufacturing. Although a certain level of domestic production would provide an emergency buffer against disruption, ultimately the UK’s long-term aim should be to double down on its existing leadership in design – embodied by firms including Imagination, Arm and Alphawave – while continuing to enjoy the scale and efficiency offered by global supply chains.

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“Our new innovation manifesto, published today, sets out how innovation lies at the heart of Imagination’s success,” he said.

“To ensure we stay ahead of the competition and create technology capable of the heavy lifting our customers require, we need to invest heavily on an ongoing basis in R&D and skilled talent. Over 700 of our 850 staff are directly engaged in R&D activity, with the majority of these based in the UK. But this isn’t just about us. Ultimately, our business only truly prospers when it is surrounded by a thriving innovation ecosystem in the UK and beyond. That applies to our customers, who use our technology to unlock innovation and efficiency gains across a whole range of fields,” he said.

“There are a number of ways government policy could be used to achieve this, from increasing public funding for semiconductor research – including through the existing Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult – to greater incentives for firms to invest themselves, for example by introducing a new, more generous R&D tax credit targeted at advanced technologies and intellectual property,” he said.

The manifesto makes ten recommendations, from ensuring that the UK government has a vision for semiconductor with support targeted at areas where the UK already has a competitive advantage to the focus on innovation and design, where the UK already has a competitive advantage, rather than manufacturing. This should also include both public funding for semiconductor research and greater incentives for companies.

Public investment and procurement should be used to drive innovation where private investment is absent, with a focus on pre-commercialisation and early-stage technologies. Investment should promote national capabilities, not national champions, and the government should use trade policy to encourage the open and fair licensing of technology and widen access to global supply chains, while challenging unfair market practices abroad that disadvantage UK innovators. Innovation should also serve the greater good and be used to tackle many of the interrelated challenges facing the UK, from levelling up the regions to achieving net zero.

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“More generally, the government should develop a bespoke strategy for the semiconductor industry’s long-term growth and incorporate this across different parts of its wider policy agenda, including skills, digital and industrial policy,” he said.

“The importance of innovation goes well beyond the semiconductor sector, however. It will be a key factor in determining whether the UK prevails – or lags behind – in the global race for tech leadership. While the UK is already a highly-innovative and entrepreneurial country, it cannot afford to rest on its laurels.

“Key to the success of these efforts will be a consistent, long-term approach. Too often in the past, British governments have put forward new strategies and institutions – from the Industrial Strategy to the Regional Development Agencies – before abolishing or replacing these just as businesses were getting familiar with them,” he said.

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