A manifesto for an industrial science and innovation strategy

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SCI unveiled its Manifesto for an Industrial Science & Innovation Strategy in August 2023.

Becoming a science superpower

Science and innovation are the bedrocks of British industry. From the first refracting telescope and the discovery of penicillin to creation of the world wide web and the first Covid vaccine, there is significant political understanding about the UK’s scientific excellence.

The UK retains its strong reputation as a global leader of science-based industry, particularly regarding its researchers and publications. Yet it is far from meeting its vast economic potential.

Lacking the commercial resources to grow our earlystage companies and attract the multinationals that can help us deliver growth at scale means revenue is leaking out of the UK. Our research and development spend lags behind our international rivals.

Huge investment decisions are being made in neighbouring states. These attract capital that would be better placed in the UK.

  • Large-scale firms are commercialising their research in more attractive tax systems overseas.
  • Not one top ten FTSE100 company built a new manufacturing plant in the UK between 2003-2023.
  • Start-ups are moving abroad, where access to capital is more freely available.
  • Only 2 of the 10 UK life science start-ups worth $1bn to float in the decade to 2021 chose to list in the UK.

The opportunity in Britain

The UK cannot afford to stand still while other advanced nations implement huge industrial strategies to propel their economies and become world leaders in green tech.

By taking advantage of our expertise, the UK’s economy would be turbocharged. According to SCI®-commissioned analysis by LEK Consulting, this approach could create an additional £230 billion in GVA and 240,000 jobs by 2030 in the life sciences and clean tech sectors alone. 

Job creation would take place in diverse locations, supporting the rebalancing of the economy from its dependence upon the south-east of England. Across the UK, citizens will take pride in the medicines, sustainable technologies and digital products made in their communities. Other industries would benefit from the growth of science industrialisation.

An attractive UK for science-based business could lead to:

    • 15 x UK start-ups scaling to £500m by 2030
    • 5 UK unicorns listing in the UK by 2030
    • 10 x £500m investments in UK manufacturing by 2030

Re-building industrial science and innovation product development

Industry needs every element of the business environment to be right. Product development is frequently a long-term process. To grow dynamic start-ups and make sure revenues stay in the UK once these ventures can produce at scale needs long-term investment.

A comprehensive National Industrial Strategy for the next UK government needs to have an industrial science and innovation strategy at its core. This strategy should be encapsulated in an Innovation Implementation Act that spans beyond five-year government terms, providing long-term confidence for investment.

These policies cannot be applied to only specific sectors, like tech. Science and innovation based business exists across energy, transport, food production and beyond.

4 steps to success

The reinstatement of the UK in Horizon Europe, R&D tax credits and full expensing for business, along with funding for engineering biology and reforms to release pension funds are all steps in the right direction. However, the science-based industry is an ecosystem. All of the policy levers must to pulled for it to be competitive.

Four new measures are vital for the commercialisation of new products and services in the UK. These are not a menu of options but a suite that must be adopted in full to see a product through its lifecycle – from concept to full production.

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