Government ‘lacks ambitious plan’ for R&D funding

25 April 2018

26 Apr 2018

A report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee says that the government’s commitment to reach 2.4% GDP for R&D ‘lacks [the] ambitious plan’ needed for the success it strives for. An extra £7bn has been pledged to UK research over the next five years.

While innovation in the health sector is well-coordinated, investment into critical research areas for the UK, such as robotics, risk ‘lagging behind’ if the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy do not employ a strategy in these industries, says the report.

The report also draws upon the lack of cohesion within government over overall responsibility for science investment. This should be the responsibility of the newly formed UKRI, the report says, as well as the creation of a strategy to coordinate R&D funding in the short- and long-term.

‘There is a clear role here for the new umbrella body, UKRI, and as a priority we expect it to work with central government to identify areas of weakness or overlap so that appropriate action can be taken,’ said Committee Chair Meg Hillier.

Without effective leadership, the UK will not develop the necessary skills needed to support emerging technologies, the report says, which could negatively affect productivity and economic growth.

The government must also improve its relationship with the private sector to match R&D funding or risk having to meet the potential gap in costs, the report argues.

‘The government has tried to encourage private sector investment by increasing tax reliefs on research and development from 11% to 12%, but BEIS does not know what impact this incentive will have on industry funding or what the balance between public and private expenditure should be,’ it says.

‘Research and development has a critical role to play in the economic prosperity of the UK,’ said Hillier. ‘It is vital the government delivers value for every pound of public money invested and has a robust plan to secure necessary levels of funding from other sources.

‘It is concerning that, having made ambitious promises on research investment for the coming decade, government does not know how those commitments will be met nor at what cost to taxpayers. This must be addressed.’

By Georgina Hines

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