CBI calls for much more regional R&D spending

The UK's biggest business organisation is calling for regions of the nations - rather than London and SE England - to be relaunched as the number one destination for future R&D investment.

The report, 'Don't Wait, Innovate' from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), says that not enough R&D is currently happening across the UK, risking progress on achieving the target of 2.4 per cent of GDP spend on R&D by 2027.According to the report, the UK currently spends 1.7 per cent of GDP on R&D, well below the OECD average of 2.4 per cent, with investment particularly limited outside London and the South East, which accounts for more than half the total national spend.

UK must encourage regional industry collaboration

The report was launched by Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, at the opening this week of Reckitt Benckiser’s new £105 million Science and Innovation Centre in Hull.It argues that the UK must capture the benefits that flow from improving innovation-led growth across the country by creating a new regional network of 'Catapult Quarters' across the UK.These, says the report, would encourage industry to collaborate regionally on key challenges such as clean growth, healthy ageing, the future of mobility and AI.“For centuries, the UK has been a home for global innovation. Scientific progress has not only transformed our economy, it’s been the single biggest driver of productivity and helped tackle some of our society’s biggest challenges," comments Felicity Burch, CBI innovation and digital director.
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“But with the continued political uncertainty and our competitors investing more in innovation, the next government must re-launch the UK as one of the best places in the world to imagine, invest and invent. This report lays out concrete initiatives that can kick-start public and private investment across our country," Ms Burch adds.“By running with this agenda, business and government can in partnership unleash the innovative potential of towns and cities throughout the UK.  From St Austell to St Andrews, there are already a wealth of successful stories of companies coming together in their regions to the benefit of society and the economy.“Imagine, if R&D spending increases to at least three per cent of GDP and Catapult Quarters are created, how much further could the UK grow its successful innovation-based economy and break ground on the grand challenges of our time.”

R&D roadmap is essential for next government

The CBI is calling on the next government to set out a roadmap for raising R&D activity within its first year of office."Policymakers should set out a long-term trajectory for government spending and include measures to ramp up public funding support for Innovate UK; drive innovation through government procurement; and push innovation diffusion throughout the UK economy," says the report.It describes 'catapults' as not-for-profit, independent, physical centres connecting businesses with the UK’s research and academic communities. "Each Catapult centre specialises in a different area of technology, but all offer a space with the facilities and expertise to enable businesses and researchers to collaboratively solve key problems and develop new products and services on a commercial scale."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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