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UK innovation

The UK’s long history of innovation and commitment to world-leading research and development (R&D) help businesses reach their full potential.

Understand UK innovation, tax reliefs for research and development and the world-class infrastructure supporting it.

Last updated 26 September 2019

Contents

Key benefits

The UK:

  • is ranked fifth on the Global Innovation Index 2019 and highest ranking G7/G20 economy
  • has over half of all R&D business expenditure come from foreign-owned companies
  • has a world-class intellectual property (IP) regime to protect innovative ideas
  • is a natural place of innovation for Ford, Pfizer, Nokia and others
  • has over 75 Nobel Prize winners – more than any other country besides the USA.

A global innovation hub

The UK is one of the most innovative countries in the world – ranked in the top 5 countries in the Global Innovation Index 2019.

Many of the world’s biggest and most dynamic companies–including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Coca-Cola–have chosen the UK as their European headquarters.

Around 590,000 new businesses were started in the UK in 2017. This gives an indication of the UK’s innovative spirit, entrepreneurial workforce and business-friendly environment–the most business friendly environment of Europe’s major economies, according to Forbes.

Centres of excellence as standard

The UK is home to four of the world’s top ten universities; Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and Imperial College London and is rated 2nd in the world for the quality of those universities on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI).

Why is this important? Innovative businesses are attracted by the leading-edge technologies and expertise available in these academic and research facilities. Encouraged by the public sector, collaboration between universities and business is the most effective of Europe’s major economies, according to the World Economic Forum.

Universities not only produce the critical thinking necessary to improve business performance, but they house new R&D facilities that focus on turning ideas into commercial enterprises.

In an attempt to compound the rate of innovation, the UK Government has created the Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP) to encourage ambitious founders to expand their enterprises from the UK.

Learn more in our Guide to the Global Entrepreneur Programme.

Tax breaks for innovators

More than half of all UK-based R&D business expenditure is undertaken by foreign-owned companies. This is partly due to the generous financial support and tax incentives for innovation in the UK.

Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from venture capital schemes that offer generous tax reliefs for investors and help make the UK the best place to start, finance and expand a business in Europe.

The R&D expenditure tax credit offers generous incentives of up to 230% for companies investing in UK R&D projects.

Learn more about R&D tax credits.

Protect your ideas

The UK has a world-class IP regime that’s helped produce 78 Nobel Prize winners in scientific disciplines–more than any other country apart from the USA. This IP regime protects the names, ideas, products, designs and written word of innovators.

The UK’s Patent Box also offers companies a corporation tax rate of 10%–compared to the current rate of 19%–on profits from inventions patented in the UK.

If you have an invention or innovation and you’re considering the UK, you can find a legal IP specialist in our UK Investment Support Directory.

Government help for your business

The UK government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, helps businesses develop new ideas and turn them into a commercial success.

It can help you:

  • access funding
  • connect with researchers and other collaborators
  • find potential customers.

Learn more about Innovate UK.

Innovate on world-class infrastructure

With the best superfast broadband service of any major European economy, the UK’s digital infrastructure network supports a software and technology sector larger than the rest of Europe combined.

The UK ranks top 10 on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index 2016; a measure of a nation’s capacity to use information and communication technology to promote growth and social wellbeing.

Additionally, the UK invests £6 billion each year in research councils and universities, while supporting a network of Catapult Centres help emerging technologies become commercially viable.

Our guide to R&D tax credits

UK Investment Support Directory.

External

Learn more about UK Catapult centres

Learn more about UK research councils

Learn more about the UK’s Patent Box