Turning research into commercially successful products and services is one way science can bring meaningful improvements to people’s lives. This process requires support and long-term planning but is the lifeblood of a thriving economy.

What is innovation in science?

Scientific research is constantly generating new ideas, technologies and insights, but for the wider world to benefit from these, they must move from the laboratory into the commercial sector. This can generate new jobs and increase productivity   to power the UK economy, but it can also provide the tools needed to tackle large scale challenges. Innovations in green energy technologies, such as using hydrogen as a new type of energy storage solution or as a fuel are helping to tackle climate change; artificial intelligence is changing the speed and accuracy of medical health testing for diseases and techniques for developing new vaccines rapidly mean pandemics can be controlled. 

The UK already has an outstanding track record in transforming innovative ideas into impactful products and services. Its world-class industrial research plays a key part in this, but for this process to flourish, it is essential for academia, industry, and government to collaborate so that ideas and skills flow between them. This requires investment not just in research and developmen t, but also in people by creating the kind of environment that will attract and retain the very best talent.

Underpinning all great innovations lies enormous amounts of research. Without decades of experimentation and scientific endeavor, it would not have been possible to develop the medicines that we take, the vehicles we travel in, or the phones in our pockets. While we take all of these for granted today, it is easy to forget what it took to create them in the first place. 

Supporting the basic science that drives innovation is an important part of any knowledge-driven economy. This requires a long-term vision to ensure the science the UK leads delivers the most benefit to society. The Royal Society strives to promote the value and importance of delivering a long-term plan for science research and development to make the UK an even more attractive place to do this work. 

We are working to create a strong and healthy science system in the UK that is built on the ideas and talents of researchers from across academia, industry and other sectors. 

To fulfill its potential, knowledge gained through scientific research and technology development must be turned into a product or a service that can be used by people. This process is not always simple or straightforward. The people who have the ideas need to be connected with those who have the skills to turn it into something that is both useful and commercially successful. This also requires an environment that encourages investment in development and rewards entrepreneurship.

The Royal Society is committed to facilitating the translation of science – wherever it is found – to industry and business. We bring together leading experts from science, industry, government, funding bodies and charities to focus to work on the key challenges facing society together. Our industry schemes, medals, awards and prize lectures support the work that shows the greatest promise and has the potential to drive future prosperity. We collaborate with partners and advise the UK Government to ensure the exchange of ideas and exploitation of intellectual property flows unhindered. 

Through the Royal Society’s Entrepreneur in Residence scheme we embed entrepreneurs within UK universities so they can share knowledge and opportunities.

Innovation can take many forms, but all have the capability to improve people’s lives. The work of British physicists on radar helped to keep people safe during World War Two while biological science cultivated over decades allowed the UK to lead the development of an effective Covid-19 vaccine. From the steam engine to machine learning, science continues to be transformational while also powering economic prosperity.

At times, the impact of translating scientific knowledge and inventions like these can be sudden, radical and even disruptive. Others can be incremental over time as products evolve.

Identifying the innovations that will have the kind of transformational impact needed in the future is a challenge. It requires expertise from across the scientific community, industry, government and wider society. 

The Royal Society has been holding a series of unique, high-level conferences that bring together that expertise. They each focus on how scientific and technical breakthroughs can address the challenges of the next decade, from decarbonisation to improving human health.

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