鲍里斯如何推动英国的创新?

文章来源|ECONOMIA


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英国新任命的首相宣布了他的执政目标;解决英国退欧僵局,为NHS和学校提供更多资金,增加警力,覆盖全国的宽带。这是一个长计划表。但令人鼓舞的是,他确定了绿色能源、生物技术和空间科学等特定领域为发展重点。但我们如何才能让这些行业繁荣起来,让英国的创新提供需要的动力?


当然,对于这届政府来说,英国退欧是议事日程上的热门话题,这是一个研究与发展(R&D)的机会。脱欧后,英国将不再受欧盟国家援助规定的约束,这些规定禁止政府在欧盟法律认为公平的范围之外,向特定企业提供不公平的贷款或减税。因此,无需遵守这些规则,英国就可以在支持国内创新方面走得更远。不过,鲍里斯•约翰逊(Boris Johnson)在改善英国创新方面,有许多领域可以做得很好。


完美的激励计划


政府大谈研发已经有一段时间了,但我们离自己设定的占GDP 2.4%的目标还差得很远。CBI最近发现,按照目前的轨迹,我们要到2053年才能达到这个目标,而不是2027年。还有很多事情要做,政府也需要妥善解决当前流程中一些非常重要的问题。


例如,HMRC最近为处理太慢而道歉。企业可能需要7个月的时间才能收到贷款,而受影响的许多企业都是中小企业,对他们而言最重要的就是现金流。HMRC必须整装待发,确保顺利运作。如果出现这样的延迟,就没有必要留出巨额的研发预算。它将扼杀创新,如果要扩大研发活动,我们需要所有基础设施都在平稳快速运转。


同样,数字经济联盟(COADEC)最近的一份报告显示,科技初创企业也一直卡在诸多申请流程中。官僚主义需要精简,HMRC应该提供更多的指导和反馈,帮助企业准确地知道他们需要什么。


这反映了一个普遍的问题。我们的客户经常不知道自己错失了什么。成立一个专门小组,对企业进行教育,并积极推动研发,能帮我们尽快达成目标。英国拥有强大的创新经济基础,仅今年就有40多万家新企业在英国成立。但是这种规模的公司通常没有足够的资源来完成长期的申请流程,所以我们需要指导这些创新者。


技术培训


我们不仅应该对企业进行研发教育。由于研发如此严重地依赖于人力,英国应该努力提高国内的技术技能。在过去的几十年里,英国有一种趋势,在大学里把重点放在人文学科上,而英国各地的许多技术学院都朝着文科的方向发展。英国正在努力解决这一问题,鼓励更多的人关注STEM领域,将有助于打造我们自己的研发团队。


但这不应该只把重点放在大学生身上。不上大学的人应该接受技能培训。我们之前并不注重为16-18岁的年轻人培训技能,但这一举动将大大促进该领域劳动力的发展。我们有很好的设备可供使用,我们需要的是更多的工程师和科学家。让我们为学生提供发展这些领域的动力。


区域核心


英国经济失衡已不是什么秘密。大多数欧洲国家都有两到三个实力相当的城市,但由于相对缺乏投资,曼彻斯特远远落后于伦敦。约翰逊重申了政府对“北方经济引擎”的承诺,但这些投资主要集中在基础设施上,未能解决围绕地区经济分歧的一些关键问题。


主要问题是人才流失。当毕业生们搬到伦敦时,人才就会从北部逐渐流向南部。同样,北方的中小企业最终也搬到了首都,将企业家及其资金从该地区吸引了过来。如果企业要蓬勃发展,政府应该鼓励企业建立区域性中心。建立以税收优惠为目标的经济特区(SEZs)来支持特定的领域。


许多北方城市也有我们可以利用的优秀大学。我们需要确保帮助大学生创业,并为初创企业创建孵化器。然后,为了培养人才,需要为北方学徒制度和当地中小企业提供更多的资金和支持。为这些项目设立的助学金将减缓人才外流,并帮助培养地区人才。


结论


如果约翰逊的承诺只是表面上的,那么我们可以预计,在他的任期内,英国将把重点放在重振经济上,从而给创新驱动型行业一个助推。但他应该放眼全局,认真考虑如何解决英国经济和生产力问题中一些被忽视的根本原因。


How can Boris boost UK innovation?


Our newly appointed prime minister has announced his ambitions; solving the Brexit impasse, more funding for the NHS and schools, more police, nationwide broadband. It’s a long shopping list. But it is definitely encouraging to see that, among these, he has identified certain sectors like green energy, biotech and space science as a focus. But how can we make these sectors thrive and give UK innovation the kickstart we all want?


Of course, for this government, Brexit is hot on the agenda, and there is an opportunity for R&D there. Post-Brexit the UK will no longer be bound by EU state aid rules, which forbid governments from giving unfair loans or tax breaks to specific companies outside of what is deemed fair by EU law. So, without needing to be compliant with these rules, the UK can go further in supporting domestic innovation. However, there are a number of areas which Boris Johnson would do well to address to improve UK innovation.


Flawless incentive schemes


The government has been talking big on R&D for a while but we still aren’t anywhere near our self-imposed targets of 2.4% of GDP. The CBI recently found that, at our current trajectory, we will not hit this until 2053, as opposed to 2027. There’s lots to be done and the government needs to iron out some really significant issues with current processes.


For example, HMRC recently apologised for processing claims too slowly. It can take seven months for companies to receive credit and many of the companies affected were SMEs, which is important considering inevitable cash flow concerns. HMRC must be fully equipped to operate smoothly. There is no point having a huge R&D budget set aside if there are such delays. It will stifle innovation and, if we are going to scale R&D activity, we need the infrastructure to work smoothly.


Similarly, a recent report from the Coalition for a Digital Economy (COADEC) suggests that tech start-ups have been struggling with the application processes involved. Bureaucracy needs to be streamlined and HMRC should provide greater guidance and feedback to help businesses know exactly what they need.

This reflects a universal issue. Our clients are often really surprised at how much they have been missing out on. Setting up a task force to educate businesses and proactively promote R&D would be a great way to get us to where we want to be. The UK has the foundation for a strongly innovative economy, with over 400,000 start-ups launching here this year alone. But companies of this size very often do not have the resources for long application processes, so we need to guide these innovators.


Technical training


It’s not just businesses we should be looking to educate about R&D. With R&D relying so heavily on people, the UK should try to improve domestic technical skills. There is a tendency in the UK to focus on the arts at universities and many technical colleges across the UK have moved in a more artistic direction over the last few decades. The UK is making efforts to solve this, but encouraging more people to look at STEM fields would build out our R&D teams.

But this should not just be focussed those at university level. Training should be available for those not going to university. Equipping 16-18-year olds with technical skills is not something we excel at and would provide a much need boost to this area of the workforce. We have fantastic facilities at our disposal and we need more engineers and scientists. Let us create the motivation for students to pursue these fields.


Regional hubs


It’s no secret that the UK economy is unbalanced. Most European countries have two-to-three similarly strong cities but Manchester is far behind London due to a comparative lack of investment. Johnson has reaffirmed the government's commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, but these investments focus on infrastructure and fail to address some key issues around regional economic divisions.


A main concern is the brain drain. A direct pipeline of talent trickles from North to South when graduates move to London. Similarly, northern SMEs end up relocating to the capital, drawing entrepreneurs and their funding away from the region. If businesses are to flourish, the government should be incentivising businesses regional hubs. Establishing Specialised Economic Zones (SEZs) which target areas with tax incentives would support specific areas.


Many northern cities also have fantastic universities on which we can capitalise. We need to ensure that we help the commercial application of innovations from universities and create incubator processes for start-ups. Then, in order to foster talent, more funding and support is needed for north-based apprenticeship schemes and local SMEs. Bursaries and grants for these would stabilise this exodus and help harbour regional talent.


Conclusion


If Johnson’s pledges are to be taken at face value, we can expect a lot of emphasis to be put on reinvigorating the UK economy over his premiership, giving innovation-heavy sectors a jump-start. But he should look at the wider picture and carefully consider how to solve some of the overlooked root causes of the UK’s economic and productivity issues.


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