Inefficiency could burn £40million pounds

Innovation is crucial for progress, resilience and finding new ways of working, especially in times of crises. The global coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the need for novel solutions to address urgent problems more fiercely than we ever could have imagined.

What is going on?

Governments around the world have spent eye watering sums of money in response to the Covid pandemic. It seems that many of the schemes have not been delivered efficiently and it has a devastating effect on not only the development and delivery of much needed solutions, it is also tainting reputations and trust in government bodies to execute effectively when innovation is needed most.

In April 2020, UK Innovate launched a competition called the “Fast Start Competition” to rapidly address the destructive effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it seems that results driving the intended outcome are hard to come by.

Funding rapid innovation projects to demonstrate significant benefits

The aim of the competition was to support UK businesses to focus on emerging or increasing needs of society and industries during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. The rationale according to the website stated that “by fast-tracking innovation, the UK will be better placed to maintain employment levels, a competitive position in global markets and make the UK more resilient to similar disruption.”

The “Fast Start” competition allocated a total of £40million pounds to the project and it was launched in April 2020. Expectations were that all the projects would begin by June 2020 and will last up to 6 months, with products and services expected to be available to the public towards the end of the 2020 year.

Intent versus outcome

It was clear that the intention of the Fast Start competition was as stated: for government to boost and build resilience in the UK economy, helping to protect against long-term impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, it therefore seemed like a good start that this competition identified close to a 1000 (956) projects, each of which received funding (many in the region of £45 000 each), to deliver solutions to help deal with the corona virus outbreak.

The problem is that six months after the projects were supposed to have been completed, no word has been heard about it again. Following the initial closing date for the project towards the end of 2020, The Future Shapers requested information on the project output in November 2020. Feedback at the time insinuated a delay in “the project set-up stage” and specifically stated that “no data would be made available before all of the allocated projects have been completed.

The Future Shapers are always in support of innovation and progressive change but we believe that the delivery institutions (government or otherwise) need to be held to account for their performance as at the end of the day we all end up paying.

Before publishing this piece, TFS did circulate it to the Communications and Public Engagement team at UK Research and Innovation and we received acknowledgement of receipt, as well as a commitment to respond.

This piece will be published tomorrow, 20 July 2021, and as always we commit to keep you updated on any feedback received by the parties involved.

Keep an eye out for the story being published tomorrow, we would love your feedback.