New plans to boost private sector investment to put the UK at the front of the global innovation race have been welcomed by various education bodies, including the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).
The Innovation Strategy is the government’s long-term vision to put innovation at the heart of ‘building back better’, as a key pillar in its Plan for Growth. It aims to boost private sector investment in R&D across the whole of the UK, and create the right conditions for all businesses to innovate so they have the confidence to do so.
The UK is committed to increasing annual public investment on R&D to a record £22 billion, but the private sector also plays a key role in boosting spending on R&D, which is an essential part of our country’s future prosperity and key to achieving key domestic priorities, from tackling climate change and boosting productivity, to levelling up opportunities across the UK and supporting businesses out of the pandemic.
The pandemic has shown that major challenges can be resolved by ambitious investment in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, and, says the government, has shown the public what British innovators can deliver when given ambitious support, freedom, and risk tolerance.
The strategy takes lessons learned from the pandemic, including from the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce – where the public and private sectors worked alongside each other – and applies them find solutions to fundamental challenges facing the UK – including the relative decline in business R&D investment, skills gaps and the need for pro-enterprise regulatory environment to spur innovation.
To achieve this aim, the government will specify ‘innovation missions’ to set clear direction, urgency and pace on the issues confronting the UK that we want to tackle with the private sector in the coming years. These will be determined by the new National Science and Technology Council and supported by the Office for Science and Technology Strategy.
The government is also outlining 7 strategic technologies to prioritise and build on existing R&D strengths, including clean technologies, robotics, genomics and AI, where the UK has globally competitive advantage and industrial strength.
The strategy outlines how the government will focus its efforts to support businesses and institutions at the cutting edge of innovation, setting out plans in four areas:
- Unleashing Business – fuelling businesses who want to innovate by ensuring effective access to private and public investment
- People – creating the most exciting place in the world for talented innovators
- Institutions and Places – ensuring R&D institutions serve the needs of businesses and promoting innovation in places across the UK
- Missions and Technologies – stimulating innovation in technology and missions that will provide the UK with a strategic advantage and will be critical to tackling some of our greatest challenges
Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of NCUB, said: “We are very pleased that the Innovation Strategy recognises the pivotal role businesses will play in developing the UK into a science superpower. We know that in order to meet the target of spending 2.4% of GDP on research and development (R&D) by 2027, businesses will need to invest £17.4bn more in R&D in 2027 than they did in 2017. A bold strategy is therefore unnegotiable in order to make the UK the best place in the world to invest.
“Although the Innovation Strategy sets out a clear vision and strategy focused around “innovation missions” and seven ‘strategic technologies’, it is critical that this is now backed with clear, funded policies and incentives to enable it. A strategy alone, is not enough. We are now calling on the Chancellor to deliver this clarity in the Comprehensive Spending Review, planned for later in the year. The UK’s universities and businesses will stand ready to support the Government on this.
“Businesses tell us time and time again that the foundations of the research system, including the fundamental research conducted in the UK’s world-leading universities, are one of their most important drivers for investing in R&D. As a next step, the Government must find a way to bind the R&D Roadmap published last year and the Innovation Strategy published today, together. Afterall, economic recovery rests on the Government, businesses, universities, and others working together to create the best possible environment for growth.