The leader of the national innovation organisation looks back on 10 years of work
The annual perm secs round-up published by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World sees Whitehall’s senior leaders open up on their biggest challenges and opportunities – as well as their plans for Christmas. Here Dr Ruth McKernan, chief executive of Innovate UK, shares her thoughts
What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
2017 has been a fantastic 10th anniversary year for all of us at Innovate UK. It has given us the chance to reflect on how far we’ve come over the last decade, to take stock of all the work we’ve done and the significant impact we’ve achieved in terms of jobs and business growth.
This year has been one of our most impressive yet, with Innovate UK playing a central role in the development and roll out of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. We’ve also introduced two fantastic new products for UK businesses – Innovation Loans and the Investment Accelerator – alongside putting in place a proper finance system and a digital grants application process.
I’m also incredibly proud of our diversity programme, particularly the campaign and competition we ran to support women in innovation, which has seen applications for our funding by women increase from 14% to 20%.
What was your most difficult decision in 2017?
After three fantastic years as chief executive, I decided to step down from my post and will leave Innovate UK next May. From my personal perspective it felt that the establishment of UK Research and Innovation was going to be a natural transition point, so my departure will create an opportunity for someone new to take Innovate UK forward as part of the leadership team within UKRI.
What are your organisation’s top priorities in the year ahead?
The move to UKRI next spring will be a significant period of change for us as an organisation, with new ways of working and even greater levels of collaboration across the Research Councils. Innovate UK will continue to play a pivotal role in driving business innovation right across the UK.
And we’ll be expanding our diversity programme with a new campaign focused on disadvantaged young people, because we know that great ideas can come from anywhere. We will also be very focused on the delivery of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as it expands to tackle more of the biggest societal and economic issues and opportunities we face in the UK.
For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without…
Carols from Kings, a glass of sherry and spending lots of time with my family.