Government to push R&D to transform UK into a science and innovation powerhouse

Last week, the UK Government unveiled a new ambitious Research and Development roadmap which outlines how Boris Johnson is planning to transform the country into a science and innovation powerhouse. 

Addressing the country, Boris said, “though we are no longer a military superpower, we can be a science superpower”. How will they achieve this? By increasing public funding for R&D to £22 billion per year by 2024 to 2025 in a commitment to see that the UK investment in R&D is 2.4% of GDP by 2027. However, it is not just about money. The Government is also making provisions to ensure that the UK is “the very best place in the world to be a researcher, inventor or innovator”, by setting up a new Office for Talent, based in Number 10. 

Ironically, the idea of being welcoming to foreign talent comes only few months since UK has left the European Union, highlighting that the narrative of the ‘we welcome foreigners’ tale needs to be reread along the lines of ‘we welcome foreigners as long as you have a PhD in bioengineering or computer science’. Therefore, the real question is, will all the other benefits that come with the new Research and Development roadmap be sufficient enough to warrant people migrating to the UK?

There is no question that investing in R&D is beneficial to any country’s economy, and being at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs allows the citizens of that country to benefit greatly from the discovery. Another underlying theme in the R&D Roadmap was ensuring that whatever discoveries are made through R&D, get translated into social and economic welfare.

For example, it doesn’t help if a company working on a timely cure for a disease can’t get their product from innovation to commercialisation, or even deployment, in a swift manner due to bureaucratic hops that could have been avoided. Obviously, in the given case, we are not talking about necessary hops, such as testing for safety.

Another welcome addition to the R&D roadmap is the discussion on reducing the bureaucracy when it comes to getting one’s R&D claims approved. The Government appears to be realising that sometimes the process of filing an R&D claim can be too labour intensive, confusing and unfriendly, which prevents many qualifying companies from pursuing this benefit. By making this process less bureaucratic and more accessible, it will help promote economic growth as well as offer social benefits.

Below is the summary of some of the goals behind the R&D roadmap. If you would like to read the full UK Research and Development Roadmap, visit the following link.

  • Re-assess how the Government makes decisions on R&D in the UK, ensuring that our R&D systems make their fullest contribution
  • Increase investment in research, unlocking new discoveries and research to solve most pressing problems
  • Become world-class at securing the economic and social benefits from research
  • Support entrepreneurs and start-ups and increase the flow of capital into firms carrying out R&D enabling them to scale up
  • Attract, retain and develop diverse talent
  • Be a partner of choice for other world-leading research and innovation nations, as well as strengthen partnerships with emerging and developing countries
  • Create a way to ensure that the R&D breakthroughs are implemented in a way that can benefit our country as a whole