Institute welcomes Industrial Strategy and R&D uplift

27 November 2017

The Institute of Physics has welcomed an increase in research and development investment of £2.3bn for 2021/22 announced in the UK Government’s Autumn Budget.

This extra investment for 2021/22 raises total public investment in R&D to £12.5 billion for that year alone.

Today, as part of its Industrial Strategy, the Government has pledged to work with industry to boost spending on R&D to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, supported by wider investment in skills and technical education. Published this morning, the Industrial Strategy White Paper – designed to empower universities and  businesses to create the next generation of technologies – sets out five “foundations of productivity”: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places.

In support of the 2.4% GDP target by 2027, the strategy outlines a raft of initiatives covering these five foundations. These include a new £115 m Strength in Places Fund to support areas to build on their science and innovation strengths and develop stronger local networks – plus a further £725 m in a second wave of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Programme with two new sector areas; Clean Growth and AI.

Under the strategy, £300 m will be invested over the next three years in “world-class talent” – focusing on collaboration and the flow of people between industry and academia. The paper says that the Government “would welcome the chance to discuss possible options for our future involvement in the EU framework programmes as part of a new far-reaching science and innovation agreement with the EU”. It goes on to mention the first formal science and technology agreement with the US, and a joint Science, Technology & Innovation Strategy with China to “deepen and expand our collaborations”.

IOP chief executive Professor Paul Hardaker said: “The boost to research and development is a very welcome signal of how government will deliver its manifesto pledge of 2.4% of GDP to be spent on public and private R&D.

“The Industrial Strategy blueprint published today is also very welcome.  It will not only benefit the science and innovation community but is good news for UK jobs, productivity and growth as a whole. But getting from 1.7 to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027 requires careful staging – it must be provided in ways that will deliver the greatest impact. We also need to ensure that we can continue to both grow and attract people with the right skills – and excellence must underpin all that we do.

“As major drivers of economic growth and productivity, we know that physics-based businesses will play a major role in helping to deliver this strategy. They contribute £177 bn gross value-added per annum – 16% of the entire UK business economy – and jobs in physics-based businesses contribute more than double the average UK productivity levels. So we very much look forward to working with the Government and the private sector to make sure the UK remains a place to do world-class science and engineering.”

On Brexit, Professor Hardaker commented: “Following Brexit, being able to attract the best in the world, whatever their nationality, maintaining access to international research facilities and collaborations – as well as continued investment in our national facilities – will be crucial in strengthening UK research. Some £67 m, or 18.8% of research funding for UK physics departments, came from EU sources in the 2015/16 academic year, and this funding must be maintained if we are to continue to benefit from the outstanding collaboration we currently enjoy with our European partners.”