Last week the Science and Technology Select Committee published its findings of year-long inquiry into the balance and effectiveness of UK research and innovation spending.
Having contributed evidence to the inquiry we were pleased to see the Committee echoing many of the CBI’s recommendations. One of the most important was the Committee's strong statements on the need for government to publish a plan for how it will deliver its target to raise spending to 2.4% of GDP.
It was also positive see the Committee call on government to take steps to make it easier for businesses to navigate and access funding support, and to better make use of public procurement as a driver of innovation. Both recommendations specifically cited evidence that the CBI had contributed to the inquiry following consultation members.
Its other recommendations of interest to business included calls for government to:
- Set out a separate target specifically for public R&D funding
- Support research excellence throughout the UK by substantially increasing the size of the Strength in Places Fund
- Undertake updated analysis of the effectiveness of the R&D tax credit system and consider the benefit of potential changes to the scheme
What’s our verdict?
Overall, the report set out a range of insightful evidence and recommendations that would benefit the business community. However, we would like to have seen stronger calls for government to do more to support business innovation. As it stands, government support is heavily geared towards supporting basic research rather than near to market development activity. And as a result, excellent ideas from the UK’s research base can often end up being commercialised elsewhere. That’s why the CBI has been calling on government to scale up support for ‘late stage development’ and commercialisation activities.
Members also highly value the R&D tax credit, so we would be wary of any major changes being made to the scheme.
The CBI will be continuing to work with business and government to drive progress on raising UK R&D spending. Following announcements in the Spending Review we are expecting government to set out plans “to significantly boost public R&D spending” in the autumn. This is a significant and positive development - a major funding uplift could radically change the game for UK innovation. Over the coming weeks the CBI will be seeking to influence policy proposals and making suggestions for where funding can be best directed.
If you would like to share your insights or get more involved with our work you can join the CBI’s R&D Policy Working Group. To find out more, get in touch with Ollie Diss.