MPs urge R&D investment increase


Published: Monday 1st December 2014 by The News Editor

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Britain’s brilliance in science risks being “throttled” unless investment in research and development is massively increased, MPs have warned the Government.

A report by the Commons business, innovation and skills select committee said it should be raised from £27 billion to £48 billion within six years.

That would represent 3% of GDP it said Business Secretary Vince Cable agreed was “the indicative level necessary for the UK’s future economic success”.

More than three decades of under-investment had seen Britain slide well below international rivals and it is still falling behind, the MPs said.

In 2012 it represented around 1.72% of GDP compared with 2.8% in the US and consistently above 2% in France and Germany.

Britain has slipped from fifth position in a league table of the innovation performance of EU member states in 2010 to eighth, the report noted.

That decline is ” threatening the opportunities for economic growth offered by the research excellence of the UK’s world-class university system”.

Committee chairman Adrian Bailey said: “In 1979, the UK was one of the most research-intensive economies in the world.

“Now amongst advanced industrial economies, it is one of the least.

“If the UK is going to punch its weight in the global economy, and help our businesses succeed in international markets, the Government needs to bridge this structural gap in research and development (R&D) funding and commit to a 3% target of GDP spent on R&D by 2020.”

The MPs called for the reinstatement of a Government-commissioned measure of R&D spend after the previous research was scrapped in 2010 in favour of using other existing sources.

And they sought a speedy explanation of the failure to meet a target – set out in the 2013 Budget – to secure £100 million pounds of Government procurement contracts in 2013/14 via the Small Business Research Initiative to help innovative firms.

Only £78.5 million was managed and the committee asked for assurances that the £ 200 million target for 2014-15 would be met.

Mr Bailey said: “We have a world-class university research and science base in the UK but not enough is being done to harness the potential economic benefits of this expertise.

“Other countries, such as Germany, seem to get more value from their scientific activity than the UK.

“The Government needs to do more to bring businesses and universities together to realise the benefits of the cutting-edge research taking place across the country.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said government measures had made a “real contribution” to business growth and innovation.

“However, we cannot be complacent which is why we have taken steps like protecting the science and research resource budget, and introduced measures like the growth deals and university enterprise zones to further encourage universities and business to work more closely together,” a spokesman said.

Published: Monday 1st December 2014 by The News Editor

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