UK government must commit to innovation

Article by Staff Writer

THE UK National Academies have called on the government to put research and innovation at the heart of its industrial strategy, urging the Chancellor to commit funding to retain and attract the world’s brightest talent.

In a joint statement issued today, the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), Royal Society, British Academy, and Academy of Medical Sciences called for the government to send a “bold, positive message” in its Autumn Statement that the country will remain a global leader in research and innovation despite its decision to leave the EU.

Noting “this time of change”, the Academies called for the government to build on the country’s strength as a nation of global researchers and innovators and focus on three priorities. These include increasing the proportion of GDP spent on R&D by government and business to 3% from the 1.6% recorded in 2013. This would bring the country in line with US investment but lagging behind Japan and Korea which are closer to 4%.

Referencing the government’s commitment to develop an industrial strategy, RAEng president Ann Dowling said research and innovation must be at its heart, with regulation that supports and encourages the development of new technologies and processes.

“The UK has much to be proud of with an excellent track record of research and entrepreneurship, but we need to send a message to the world that we are committed to building on our strengths to make Britain one of the best places in the world to research and innovate,” she said.

“Increasing spending on research and development not only creates a more innovative society, it also sends a signal – the UK is committed to be a nation of innovators, and we need everyone, from first time entrepreneurs to global investors, to have confidence in that commitment.”

There are deep concerns that the decision to leave the EU will create barriers preventing overseas research talent and entrepreneurs from coming to the UK, or dissuade them from trying, and will harm inward investment.

In 2015, over half of the UK’s research output was the result of an international collaboration, and these collaborations are increasing. A third of UK start-ups were founded by non-UK nationals and 51% of UK start-up employees come from outside the UK, the Academies report.

“We are urging the government to send a bold message and build an immigration system that allows the UK to welcome talented people from across the world to join and strengthen our research community,” said Robert Lechler, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Last month, RAEng, speaking on behalf of the UK’s 38 engineering organisations and institutions, issued an in-depth warning on the importance that Brexit does not choke off access to the engineering skills that the country needs.

The UK’s North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) said in October that the government’s industry strategy must be integrated across industry sectors and supply chains.

Article by Staff Writer

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