The Government has rightly identified that the UK needs to increase its R&D spending, but a cross-party committee of MPs has said that the Government lacks an “ambitious plan” for how it will achieve this goal.
The Government aims to increase total UK investment in research from 1.68% in 2015 to 2.4% of GDP in 2027. However, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has argued that the Government does not know how this commitment will be met or how much it will cost taxpayers.
The Committee has recommended that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) should develop a clear strategy for reaching the target research spending, which would have to addresses issues such as under-funding by business and the potential loss of EU funding.
Research in the health sector is well-coordinated, according to the PAC’s report, but the Committee criticised BEIS for not doing enough to identify where other areas of research are lagging behind.
The report also highlighted that without effective leadership in key emerging technologies such as robotics, the UK will not develop the skills it needs in the future, and productivity and economic growth could suffer. In addition, the MPs recommended that the Government needs to make sure it protects Government Intellectual Property rights as part of its investment programme.
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, Chief Executive Officer of TIGA, stated:
“The Government has rightly identified that the UK needs to boost its R&D spending to ensure that we remain a world leading innovative economy. It is now about achieving this objective.
“R&D spending has the potential to boost productivity at a crucial time for the economy. Strong productivity growth would help the UK see off any potential headwinds arising from Brexit, while ensuring that UK businesses remain competitive on a global level.”
“The Government has lots of tools at its disposal to encourage research spending. Tax credits, matched funding, as well as loans and grants are all proven to encourage private businesses to invest in research.”