MPs would love to hear all about how plans to ratchet R&D spend to 3% of GDP

Go on, we're listening

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee has called on UK government to publish its long-overdue plans for upping investment in research and development.

In the 2017 "Industrial Strategy", the government committed to raise total R&D spend to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, and to reach 3 per cent of GDP in the longer term, although private sector investment – rather that government cash – will be key to meeting that target.

As of two years ago, investment stood at 1.69 per cent (£34.8bn), below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average across 36 countries.

Of that, UK business funded 54 per cent (£18.7bn). The government was the second-largest source of funding at 20 per cent (£6.8bn), with the rest coming from areas such as overseas investment and nonprofit groups.

Despite the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) quango and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committing to draft roadmaps to achieve the 2.4 per cent target, nothing has yet been published.

In its Balance and effectiveness of research and development spending report, the committee said the government should highlight the significant R&D investment that is undertaken by government departments.

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 per cent 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."

He said the Committee has advised government to detail the way it intends to meet the 2.4 per cent 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."

Back in 2017, Lamb also criticised the government for its lack of roadmap.

Industry groups have long pulled apart the government's low R&D investment compared with other European countries. The Confederation of British Industry previously called on the government to increase its 2027 commitment to 3 per cent.

In June, the President of the Royal Society, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, told BBC News that: "We need Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to really get behind the 2.4 per cent target, including committing to investing the government's own share, and show us what a real vision for future prosperity looks like."

Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Innovation & Digital, said the corporate world was also calling for an "ambitious plan" to achieve the 2.4 per cent R&D spending tagret by 2027. :

“The Committee’s recognition that innovation support must be more accessible and easier to navigate is something the CBI has long been calling for. Change will be critical if the UK is to remain the home of ground-breaking discoveries and inventions.” ®

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