Research and development (R&D) infrastructure underpins an innovation economy. Researchers and innovators require ready access to a range of equipment, facilities and networks to develop new ideas, technologies, products and services.
Cutting-edge domestic infrastructure, as well as access to major international facilities and collaborations, are essential to positioning the UK as an R&D leader and location or partner of choice for overseas researchers, innovators and businesses.
Investment in new R&D infrastructure, as well as in upgrading, maintaining and widening access to existing domestic and overseas infrastructure, will strengthen the UK’s capability to undertake world-leading science and innovation, and attract international talent, collaborators and investment.
Barriers to unlocking potential
- Lack of long-term funding and strategy
- Threats to international collaboration
- Ineffective use of the innovation landscape
Initial steps toward addressing these challenges
We recommend the UK Government takes immediate action to:
- Develop a long-term strategy for R&D infrastructure investment
- Ensure a clear role for PSREs is embedded within strategic plans relating to research and innovation, to encourage greater use and support long-term planning
- Continue to ringfence the funding set out in the Autumn 2021 Budget for association to Horizon Europe or for alternative programmes if necessary, and publish the immediate arrangements and funding profile for the period either until association to Horizon Europe is agreed or until long-term UK alternatives are operational.
Next phase of the R&D blueprint
The IOP will carry out more detailed work to explore:
- Future opportunities for physics facilities, drawing on insights from UKRI’s infrastructure review and an IOP-commissioned review of major physics-related facilities (subject to consultation with stakeholders).
Increasing R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 would generate and additional 80,000 jobs and £30.5bn in GDP
From BEIS Research Paper Number 2020/009
Case study: Innovative fusion energy technologies for future clean energy generation
Fusion energy has great potential to deliver safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for generations to come. It is based on the same processes that power the sun and stars and has the potential to transform our energy usage across the world, helping nations reach net zero in decades to come.
UK physics research is a crucial component in achieving fusion energy. Landmark results announced earlier this year by scientists at UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and EUROfusion, set a new world-record of sustained fusion energy with JET (Joint European Torus), currently the largest operating tokamak in the world. In addition, UKAEA’s MAST-U research programme has developed a world-first ‘Super-X divertor’ - an exhaust system designed to reduce heat and power loads from particles leaving the plasma, a key issue to be resolved to make fusion energy commercially viable.
With £500 million of funding committed to fusion facilities, infrastructure and R&D, the UK fusion programme is ambitious, aiming to establish a world-leading fusion industry and to develop a prototype fusion power plant known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) which is targeting operations by 2040. The UK is at the forefront of fusion energy technologies, and this is recognised globally, with General Fusion, a Canadian Energy company, planning to build its first fusion demonstration plant in the UK.