Raising R&D Investment

Raising R&D Investment

Leveraging university-business collaboration to raise total R&D investment in the UK to 2.4% of GDP

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The Government pledged to increase research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, in line with the OECD average, in their 2017 manifesto.

They embedded this commitment in the UK’s Industrial Strategy – designed to boost productivity and growth throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

The Government is committed to increasing investment in R&D to position the UK as the world’s most innovative economy. About 65% of R&D investment in the UK comes from the private sector with about half of that amount coming from firms headquartered overseas. The Government will only meet its commitment if there is a major increase in business investment in the UK. Historical patterns suggest strong partnerships between universities and businesses are a significant factor in attracting that investment.

During the autumn of 2018 the National Centre for Universities and Business convened a series of roundtables to develop well-informed advice to Government on the delivery of its commitment to raise total R&D investment in the UK to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Chaired by Professor Graeme Reid, Strategic Advisor to NCUB, small groups of NCUB members and stakeholders from universities and businesses met to explore topics such as:

  • Practical options for growing R&D investment in the UK by some 50% over the next nine years, taking us to the Government’s commitment of 2.4% of GDP;
  • Whether the current balance between public and private investment (around 1/3 public and 2/3 private) should remain under a higher overall level of investment;
  • Whether the current balance of public funding between academic research and business innovation should remain under a higher overall level of investment;
  • Implications of the higher level of investment for career development and recruitment in the research community.

Key conclusions from these discussions were submitted to Government and UKRI, including:

  • The UK is stronger at research commercialisation than the prevailing narrative from Government would suggest;
  • Continued access to global investment and talent pools is critical;
  • Place-based elements of R&D should be explored further if persistent disparities in regional economic performance are to be addressed;
  • More risk capital – perhaps following the Treasury’s Patient Capital Review – is needed to accelerate R&D investment; and
  • Outcome-focused interventions such as QR funding and its equivalents in Devolved Administrations will give rise to more creative solutions and partnerships.

Related content

Read the letter NCUB submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Blogs by NCUB CEO Dr Joe Marshall:

Blogs by Professor Graeme Reid, Strategic Adviser to NCUB:

Blog by Dr Emma Baxter, UCL Public Policy: Making sense of data and politics on research impact

Blog by Andrew Basu-McGowan, Policy Lead for Innovation and Place at NCUB: Smart Specialisation Hub Conference: place-based innovation on the agenda


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