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CBI axes innovation post

The business lobby group CBI will not recruit a replacement for its former head of enterprise and innovation, Tim Bradshaw, who left the post in October last year, Research Fortnight has learned.

Following an internal staff review, the CBI has decided that Bradshaw’s responsibilities will instead be distributed among existing staff.

James Fothergill, the organisation’s head of education and skills, has been put in charge of innovation policy while enterprise will go to Matthew Fell, the CBI’s director for competitive markets. However, their job titles will not change.

Despite axing the dedicated post, a CBI spokesman said the organisation is still “committed to promoting innovation and enterprise”.

Bradshaw left the group to become head of research and innovation policy at the Russell Group of larger, research-intensive universities, after nearly 14 years at the CBI covering innovation, science, technology and industrial policy.

“While it’s disappointing that Tim’s role is not being replaced, it is encouraging that innovation will take a headline position alongside education and skills,” said Beck Smith, acting director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, in response to the news. “We’ll be watching with interest to see how this shift shapes their future work in this area.”

“We recognise that CBI will still be committed to innovation and we can see a logic in combining the area with education and skills in policy terms,” added Douglas Robertson, chairman of the commercialisation body PraxisUnico. “We do believe that the need for a strong business and industry voice and championing of research, development and innovation has never been greater and [that] the role of that voice being animated by CBI through all levels of management is critical.”

However, speaking to Research Fortnight last year following the announcement that Bradshaw was leaving, Mariana Mazzucato, professor at the science and technology policy group SPRU at the University of Sussex, warned that the CBI cannot be an effective lobby group unless it hires people who have expert knowledge.

She added that if the CBI loses its innovation policy capacity, others less knowledgeable about innovation policy will step in, influencing the government according to their own agenda. “There’s all this talk about the government picking winners but I think the real problem is the ‘losers’ picking government,” she said at the time. “You have a bunch of lobbies…that are able to get government to listen to them with these requests they have, which are often built on thin air.”