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General election ask 1: Radically increase R&D investment

R&D is the engine of a thriving modern economy and society. Investment in R&D is a key driver of economic growth: it boosts business productivity, creates high-value jobs, unlocks technological advancements and powers the journey towards a green economy.

Physics fuels this growth, underpinning a third of all business R&D and powering many of the world’s most impactful innovations, from fibre optics that bring better connection to millions of homes across the UK to MRI that helps diagnose disease.

Research commissioned by the IOP found that, in 2019 alone, physics-based industries directly generated £229bn in gross value added (GVA) or 11% of total UK gross domestic product.

This means new jobs, growth and opportunity. Physics innovation also benefits all parts of the country and all parts of our society. Every part of the UK saw growth in GVA generated by physics-based industries over the decade to 2019.

There was particularly strong growth in the north-west and the West Midlands. The labour market demand for physics skills is large enough to be significant everywhere.

Physics skills are central to the new industrial landscape, and offer routes to productive employment and varied and rewarding careers.

And in the years to come, we will depend more on physics knowledge and skills to address the challenges we face, whether through improved diagnosis and treatment in healthcare, living more prosperously and sustainably, addressing our energy needs or protecting our biodiversity. 

To unlock its powerful potential, the UK needs a world-class R&D system. This means increasing R&D investment to match or exceed the top OECD countries and focusing more of that investment on ground-breaking research in physics, cutting-edge innovation, skills development, facilities and infrastructure.

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