It may seem like another era, but the UK budget on was less than 3 months ago. At that time the Chancellor set out his plans to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024 to 2025.
GovGrant welcomed this landmark investment as the largest and fastest ever expansion of funding for basic research and innovation, taking direct support for R&D to 0.8% of GDP. We have long argued that the UK has fallen behind on the international stage and this increase in funding starts to redress the balance by placing the UK among the top quarter of OECD nations – ahead of the USA, Japan, France and China.
As a first step, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is now confirming allocations of the R&D budget for the financial year 2020 to 2021. This will allocate £10.36 billion of funding to BEIS programmes and partner organisations.
Funding for public sector research establishments should enable the UK to secure the talent and maintain the infrastructure needed to deliver our world leading research, in order to:
- be at the forefront of fusion energy technology
- deliver world-leading meteorological and climate science
- develop cutting-edge quantum measurement techniques
- capitalise on the UK’s space capabilities
The impact of Covid-19
Of course there is still the real and immediate need to back immediate responses to Covid-19, through providing support to R&D intensive businesses and higher education institutions to create stability during the pandemic, while also sponsoring efforts to manufacture and clinically trial vaccines.
There is clearly a delicate balance between a tactical response to the Covid-19 realities today and the longer term strategy for backing R&D in UK businesses. The latter being essential to sustain the UK economy in the light of a likely recession and to grow the economy in the medium and long term.
However we don’t consider there to be any conflict between these tactical and strategic ambitions. We believe that the UK’s response to the immediate health crisis and its economic future will be enhanced by its reputation for nurturing and enhancing innovation and technology. It will always makes sense to invest in R&D.