In February this year MedCity’s CEO Sarah Haywood gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on the subject of the balance and effectiveness of research and innovation spending. Published today (12 September 2019), the resulting report, provides insight on how the UK can ensure it meets its targets on R&D spending.

In it’s recommendations, the Committee welcomed the target set by the government for R&D funding to reach 2.4 % of GDP by 2027. To enable this, the report suggests that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) publish their roadmaps setting out plans to achieve it as soon as possible, and no later than the end of 2019.

Currently ONS data suggests that R&D spending of 1.69% in 2017 in the UK was an increase from 1.67% the previous year. In terms of international comparison, using UNESCO data the UK levels are similar to Canada and Norway, but lower than France (2.3%), Germany (2.9%) and behind table leaders such as South Korea and Israel (both 4.2%).

The Committee suggests that plans contained in the roadmaps should show an integrated approach between UKRI and BEIS that suitably reflects the strengths and prospects of the UK economy These plans should be developed beyond 2027 to ensure travel towards the longer-term 3% target.

In addition the recommendations that UKRI extend its analysis of ‘balance’ beyond the dual support system, looking at other dimensions of balance such as the regional concentration of funding, the balance between research and innovation, and the balance between capital and current spending, as addressed in the Report.

Sarah Haywood, Executive Director of MedCity who gave evidence to the committee as MedCity’s CEO, said: “We welcome the initiative behind this report and the opportunity to give evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee. The conclusions and recommendations of the report have set out some supporting actions to achieve the 2.4% target for R&D spending, such as clear roadmaps from UKRI and BEIS and a ‘big data’ approach to evaluate funding and we fully support these suggestions.

“We also welcome the recognition of the excellence of the Golden Triangle as a place of quality research that attracts international investment and, alongside this, we understand the Committee’s call to support and cultivate regional strengths to contribute to the 2.4% target. Increasingly we are seeing that more funding is being allocated to projects that work across UK regions, such as the HDRUK Health Data Research Hubs announced today. Going forward, we believe this form of cross-regional collaboration can ensure we achieve the balance and effectiveness called for in the report, whilst building on the specific R&D strengths across the country.”

Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Research and development spending brings huge economic and social benefits to us all. So, although we welcome the Government’s commitment to substantially increase research and development funding to 2.4% by 2027, a plan is now needed on how this target will be achieved. We are already behind international competitors such as Germany and France, and we can’t fall further behind.

“We have advised the Government to publish its ‘roadmaps’ on how it hopes to meet the 2.4% target no later than the end of this year. I hope to see plans that reach beyond 2027 and clearly reflect how integration between UKRI and BEIS will strengthen and harness the benefits of research spending for society.

“While UK research is world-leading and we have many world-leading universities and research institutions, excellence and funding are concentrated in a small number of institutions, in a few regions of the UK. The Government’s Strength in Places Fund is a key tool in spreading excellence to different regions. However, it is too modest to drive any significant rebalancing of investment. That’s why we’ve called for it to be substantially increased.”