Ambitious plans to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion

Already heavily influenced by Brexit and the dynamics of a new Government and Chancellor keen to make a dramatic statement, many will feel that last week’s budget has been totally superseded by the extraordinary national and global response to the rapidly evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

However, whilst we are far from a “business-as-usual” environment, the budget does give a clear indication of how this Government intends to support UK R&D. 

In particular, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced ambitious plans to dramatically increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25. This would more than double the UK’s investment by 2024 and clearly signals a strong belief that the UK’s long term global future relies on its ability to innovate. 

The Government also set the objective of increasing economy-wide investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and puts science, innovation and technology at the heart of the UK’s investment strategy. 

The increase to £22 billion per year by 2024-25 would be the largest and fastest ever expansion of support for basic research and innovation, taking direct support for R&D to 0.8% of GDP and placing the UK among the top quarter of OECD nations – ahead of the USA, Japan, France and China, creating an innovation-intensive and technology-driven economy

Focus areas 

Whilst overwhelmingly positive in general, the fine detail of how this surge in R&D investment will be spent has been deferred until the spending review due later this year and is likely, in the short-term, to be heavily influenced by the unprecedented pandemic response currently unfolding. 

The following details have been released to date:

The increase in R&D investment will support a range of objectives: 

1. Backing businesses to innovate and grow (~£1.1B)

  • Increasing Research & Development Expenditure Credit from 12% to 13%. 
  • £200 million in equity commitments for the Life Sciences Investment Programme 
  • £900 million for high-potential technologies. Focusing on clean energy, and supporting the National Space Strategy and space innovation fund. 

2.Supporting world-leading research in all regions and nations (~£1.58B)

  • £400 million in 2020-21 for world-leading research, infrastructure and equipment 
  • £300 million for experimental mathematical research to attract the very best global talent
  • £800 million in a new blue-skies funding agency that will fund high-risk, high-reward science. 
  • £80 million for the UK’s foremost specialist institutions over the next five years. 

3.Overcoming societal challenges (~£1.59B)

  • £12 million to aid in reducing the burden of illness in the future for the National Institute for Health Research in 2020-21. 
  • £2 million in 2020-21 to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Government Office for Science for cross cutting strategic science and resilience capabilities. 
  • £1.4 billion over 10 years in the animal health science facility at Weybridge
  • £180 million over 6 years for a new state-of-the-art storage and research facility for the Natural History Museum at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus. 

4.Growing a greener economy (~£1.9B)

  • Doubling the size of the Energy Innovation Programme. 
  • £270 million of new funding to enable new and existing heat networks to adopt low carbon heat sources.
  • Reducing vehicle pollution by providing £403 million for the Plug-in Car Grant, and £129.5 million for vans, taxis and motorcycles. With £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles, 
  • Natural environment: £640 million in tree planting and peatland restoration 
  • Waste and recycling: £700,000 will establish the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, designed to encourage producers to make their packaging more recyclable and reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging.

Conclusion

The mid-to-long-term outlook for UK public investment in R&D is extremely positive. 

In the immediate term, the COVID-19 pandemic will heavily influence both the availability and application of UK Government funding. However, for those ambitious organisations who are able to capitalise, a significant number of well-established public funding options remain open and accessible.

The Granted Team is at the forefront of helping ambitious businesses identify and secure R&D funding from public and philanthropic sources. If you have a product, process or service that you feel would be suitable for UK or EU R&D funding, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team.

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