It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season …
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
Private finance for innovation?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been categorised by a division of approaches, ideas, and impacts; the presentation of a global tragedy which subsequently proved a catalyst for innovation and ingenuity.
A parallel division has also been visible in the private supply of funding for innovation, with winners and losers, and increases, and declines.
What does ‘Private Finance for Innovative Firms’ tell us about the effects and opportunities of the Covid-19 pandemic? You’ll have to read our full report to find out. If I were to summarise however…
…Equity markets have always been at the centre of providing support for innovation and innovative firms - equity markets of 2020 in particular have been characterised by record breaking investment levels on both a global and domestic scale – totalling £13.2 billion, up from £10.6 billion in 2019 (in the UK).
Record breaking in some areas, contracting in others
In contrast, we saw the number of deals decrease overall– down from 3,400 to 2,700 in the UK and globally by 18%.
Demonstrating that there was a shift from the investor community to focus on smaller number of larger investments.
However in this case the key casualties were those looking for start-up and early-stage funding as well as limiting the number of those wanting to secure equity finance for the first time. (British Business Bank - Small Business Finance Markets Report 2021).
What has been the focus of investment in 2020?
In light of the pandemic, Private Finance for innovation has been characterised by the focus on short-term adaptation to the much maligned ‘new normal’, - driven by the attitudes and behavioural changes behind social distancing or remote working to name a few.
A visible example can be seen in the uprise of ‘Deliveroo style’ food technology, and how many of us in this last year has had pre-packaged ingredients, carefully measured out for optimum portion size, delivered in a cardboard box?
Whilst this focus on ‘ease of access’ for the consumer, and a synthesized reality where we can continue to enjoy many of the same activities we did prior to the pandemic, but from the comfort and relative ‘safety’ of our home.
This has meant that long-term opportunities and policy goals such as those linked with ‘Energy Sustainability’ or ‘Decarbonisation’ have taken a temporary secondary position in investment priorities.
A strong commitment for business support and innovation
Government efforts have remained strong with an all-round suite of support measures for businesses, which included support for innovation delivered by Innovate UK and UKRI, demonstrating that innovation remains at the forefront of responding to the crisis, promoting both short term resilience and long term recovery.
The private sector will invest in R&D to exploit commercial opportunities. Still, there is a clear role for Innovate UK to influence R&D spending to achieve broader policy aims.
This allows us to unleash the innovation revolution in a post-Covid era.
This forms part of the Innovate UK economics & insights initiatives to track, monitor & evaluate the effects the Covid-19 crisis is having on businesses supported by Innovate UK. This includes:
Longitudinal business survey during Covid; Wave 1 published in September 2020 and Wave 2 January 2021, Wave 3 March 2021, Stay tuned as more is coming soon.
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