Research Report

What works for innovation: supporting R&D and innovation in deep tech chemistry SMEs

ERC Research Report



Associated Themes
  • Innovation

Whether it is tackling climate change, helping to create sustainable processes, or improving and saving lives, chemistry SMEs have a crucial role to play in developing new technologies which can transform our world. Despite the crucial role of chemistry SMEs, they are not well understood or supported in the UK. This report aims to shed some light on the challenges, barriers and unique contributions of a specific subgroup of chemistry SMEs; deep tech chemistry SMEs. We explore the characteristics of these deep tech chemistry SMEs, their potential contribution to the UK’s mission-driven innovation agenda, and how we can better support these firms to maximise their innovation impact.

This study was commissioned by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) before the publication of the Innovation Strategy. However, the Innovation Strategy recognises the potentially transformational role of innovation by deep tech SMEs. The central question we address is how the UK government and other support organisations can best help deep tech
chemistry SMEs to maximise their R&D and innovation success and contribution to economic and social value. Evidence gathering involved a review of existing quantitative data sets and policy approaches in the UK and internationally; interviews with 35 deep tech SMEs and industry experts and workshops with industry insiders and policymakers.
The outcome is a series of policy options to support deep tech chemistry SMEs, a number of which would also benefit deep tech firms in other science sectors.

Reference and citation correction:
The reference in page 34 should read Lenihan et al, 2020; as should the source at the end of Table 5.
The correct citation in page 44 should be as follows:
Lenihan, H., Mulligan, K., & O’Driscoll, J. (2020). A cross-country repository of details on the innovation and science policy instruments available to firms in eight countries (2007-2020): The devil is in the detail. Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Ireland, September 2020 (available at: