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Policy and funding

IOP launches ‘Blueprint’ project to create a thriving research and development system

30 March 2022

Online event kickstarts major new investigation into the future of physics and the economic impact of our science.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) today launched an investigation and national consultation to identify the opportunities and challenges around investment in physics research and development (R&D) in the UK and to make recommendations for change to government.

Called “Physics: investing in our future”, the project will deliver a blueprint for R&D in physics in the UK by autumn 2022 with the project as a whole running for three years.

The project started with an online conference of key stakeholders this morning and will also include a community-wide consultation aimed at finding the best ways to create opportunities and reduce barriers to undertaking physics R&D in areas ranging from tax policy to infrastructure spending and boosting skills.

The ‘Blueprint’ will identify ways to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of discovery science and seek to lower the barriers to commercial exploitation of scientific breakthroughs.

It will draw on the IOP’s over 100 years of expertise as the UK’s learned society and professional body for physics, and the unique role its 21,000 members play today in linking academic research and industry.

And it will build on the research the IOP has published recently on the strength of physics-based businesses, industries and skills within the UK economy, and the challenges faced.

During the project the IOP will consult with its members, experts and partners in a process overseen by a steering group of leaders in research and innovation. 

This work is driven by a belief that failing to invest in R&D risks the leadership in vital industrial sectors – and the resulting economic benefits – becoming embedded in the US, China, Japan and other nations. The IOP believes this could result in a lost opportunity to create a prosperous and sustainable society.

Smiling female scientists in lab coats carrying out physics-based research

Commenting on the launch of the Blueprint project, the IOP’s director of policy and public affairs, Tony McBride, said: “This is an exciting and important project for the IOP and we hope it will help to unlock the resources needed to unleash a new wave of physics discovery and innovation to benefit people in every part of the country.

“Physics research, innovation, knowledge and skills offer an opportunity to chart a sustainable route to a green recovery with the benefits of a more prosperous society and productive economy available to all.

“As other nations increase their investment in R&D, the UK stands at a crossroads. In one direction lie scientific and industrial leadership, new technologies, well-paid jobs and a new, green economy. In the other lie scientific stagnation and economic decline.

“Our Blueprint will provide evidence-based analysis, recommendations and case studies that will help to strengthen the R&D system, and secure a leading role for the UK in discovery science and developing new technologies and sectors, with the opportunity to harness the substantial economic benefits such leadership offers.

“We believe we must invest in physics or risk relegation from the economic premier league – our Blueprint will be a plan to prevent that from happening.”

The Blueprint will first highlight the beneficial outcomes a thriving physics R&D system can deliver in terms of global leadership in science and innovation, economic growth, improved living standards and the transition to a green economy and more sustainable society.

It will then focus on four pillars with evidence-gathering sessions considering the following topics:

  • People and skills: including education and training, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and immigration
  • Infrastructure: including equipment, facilities and research infrastructure, and international collaboration
  • Scientific discovery: including publicly funded physics research (discovery and applied), and horizon-scanning capability for emerging opportunities
  • Businesses: including funding (domestic and international), R&D tax credits, intellectual property (IP) frameworks, and access to knowledge base