Scale up the enablers of the research and innovation system

An innovation-led economy requires strong foundations. We recommend that the Government, with UKRI, should scale up the enablers of the research and innovation system, including research funding and talent.

As the UK scales up its research, development and innovation activities, the Government and devolved governments must also strengthen their foundations through investment in strategic enablers of the system. UK R&D is not only set to expand but will also transform. In response the UK must develop a larger, more adaptable and more diverse R&D workforce and be prepared to invest in emerging technologies and infrastructure.

Invest sustainably in fundamental research

The Government must invest sustainably in fundamental research. UKRI must invest more in discovery-led science across the Research Councils and, in particular, increase Quality Related research funding. This is the cornerstone of the research base and underpins business R&D and innovation. Simultaneously there is a need to invest in the UK’s R&D capital and digital infrastructure to remain at the forefront of emerging capabilities.

Increase business-focussed R&D incentives

To mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 and stimulate R&D investment, the Government should increase business-focused R&D incentives. There is an opportunity for government to accelerate changes already in train to modernise the UK’s R&D tax credit system to include data costs and capital expenditure and also to make it easier for SMEs to access the credit system. The Government should also explore offering equivalent incentives to encourage greater corporate venturing activity. 07

R&D and innovation talent

UKRI should support universities to develop a strong and diverse pipeline of R&D and innovation talent for the future that flows in and between academia and industry. The UK does not just need more people with the right skills, but also a culture of collaboration and mobility between academia and industry. Driving forward the skills and talent needs that are a prerequisite of a R&D intensive economy is only possible if the UK fundamentally rethinks research careers. Remaining with the current system will mean that R&D will remain too siloed, homogenous, unrewarding and potentially unattractive. For the R&D Roadmap goals to be achieved, R&D careers must move to a position where they attract people of all backgrounds and experience. Developing diverse teams and thinking, through interdisciplinary work and collaboration, and attracting those from all backgrounds into research careers is central to this.