Place research and innovation as the engine of a bold future plan

The UK needs a bold economic plan with research and innovation as its engine. Deliver this through commercial missions – specific areas where the UK will seek to achieve a dominant global market position.

The UK needs a bold economic plan to drive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic but also seize the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. Developing and implementing this plan will require more holistic, systemic policy making that coordinates the decisions that need to be taken across different levels of government and parts of the UK, as well as across the remits of departments and budgets.

A bold plan for the future

The Government should unite its twin aims of developing a more productive, resilient economy with its aspirations to grow research intensity and innovation, by developing a new economic plan. The UK has changed significantly since the Industrial Strategy was developed in 2017, with the impact of Covid-19, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and a renewed emphasis on carbon neutrality affecting policy priorities. In response, the UK needs national coordination rather than individual interventions. The 2017 Industrial Strategy should be refreshed to define business R&D and innovation as a critical driver of competitiveness. This should be followed by a cross-cutting R&D and innovation plan to create the right conditions to encourage greater business investment in research, development and innovation.

Commercial missions

Follow-up on the Plan for Growth should establish a framework to define priorities for the research and innovation agenda through commercial missions. The UK needs to identify specific commercial opportunities that it can focus support and resource around to encourage research translation and become world leading in targeted domains. The UK and many other countries have adopted mission-orientated approaches to focus resource on tackling Global Challenges. We recommend the development of “commercial missions”, which are carefully chosen, specific commercial opportunities of broad societal benefit that the UK is focussing on to achieve a dominant market position and where more public support is targeted. These areas must be able to bridge from cutting edge research through to commercially viable products and services with both local and international market potential.