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Analysis of the 2024 Labour Party manifesto

13 Jun 2024

Thursday saw the publication of the Labour Party manifesto. We look at what Labour policies could mean for science and engineering.

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Plan for R&D investment

On R&D investment, the Labour manifesto has not provided any concrete spending targets. They have reaffirmed their commitment to scrap short funding cycles for key R&D institutions in favour of ten-year budgets. How this would work in practice is not clear. It is positive to see the party recognise the importance of a long-term plan for R&D, which has long been a focus of our work, and is something that we are calling for in our Manifesto for Science and Engineering. A long-term plan will give the research community and the private sector the stability and predictability they need to invest in research and innovation.

UPDATE 21/06/24: The Labour Party have released further detail stating that the planned ten-year research and development budgets for key institutions will form part of their Industrial Strategy. 

They have identified six areas for ten-year budgets, including aerospace, artificial intelligence, automotive, defence, energy and life sciences. These areas align with Labour’s industrial strategy priorities and sector plans they have pledged to develop in government.

The party have also announced centres that could benefit from ten year budgets: the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, with sites in Sheffield, Lancashire and North Wales, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, with sites in Oxfordshire and the East Midlands, and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult with sites across the country including in Blyth and Aberdeen.

Other organisations that could be in scope include the Crick Institute in London and Whittle Laboratory in Cambridge, which support our life sciences and aerospace sectors. It could also support funding bodies like ARIA, which funds pioneering AI research, and the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory, headquartered in Wiltshire. One notable absence from the list is UKRI – although shadow Science Minister Chi Onwurah stated that UKRI would be covered at the Science Hustings on 19 June.

Innovation and the business environment

Labour has outlined its ambition to “use every available lever” to support the environment to increase businesses investment. Ensuring business R&D investment continues to rise is vital if the UK is to achieve its research intensity ambitions. As we call for in our recent report Backing Business R&D, the next incoming Government must use all the levers available to create and enable an environment that incentivises businesses to invest in R&D in the UK.

The manifesto makes a series of pledges spanning the business environment:

  • Better access to early-stage support for businesses, including working with universities to support spinouts and working with industry to ensure start-ups have the access to finance they need to scale and grow.
  • While not making any direct reference to R&D tax credits specifically, the manifesto acknowledges the importance of having a stable and predictable tax regime for investors that allows long-term planning.
  • The creation of a new Regulatory Innovation Office to help regulators update regulation, speed up approval timelines, and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries.
  • The removal of planning barriers through updates to the National Planning Policy Framework and updating the regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure. This includes an update to national planning policy to make it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories.
  • The simplification of the procurement process to support smaller innovative businesses.

Higher and Further Education

Labour have set out their ambitions to reform higher and further education, recognising the challenges facing the skills system. They have committed to reforming post-16 education, as well as better integrating further and higher education. We have previously called for the provision of a more integrated skills system to support the UK’s ambitions for research and innovation.

The manifesto acknowledges the financial pressures facing universities, noting that the current higher education funding settlement is not working. The party pledges to create a secure future for higher education and the opportunities it creates across the UK. However, the manifesto does not provide any detail on what this would look like. Our manifesto calls for the next Government to address the financial sustainability of the university sector.


Labour have pledged to reduce net migration by reforming the points-based immigration system to ensure it is fair and properly managed, with appropriate restrictions on visas. They have also set out their vision to link immigration and skills policy. This includes strengthening the Migration Advisory Committee and establishing a framework for joint working with skills bodies across the UK, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Regional support

In England, Labour have set out their plans for ensuring that regions are supported to deliver effectively at a local level while aligning with the national industrial strategy. They have committed to deepen devolution settlements for existing Combined Authorities and to widen devolution to more areas. In addition, they commit to ensuring places have strong governance arrangements, capacity, and capability to deliver, while providing central support where needed. They have also pledged a new statutory requirement for Local Growth Plans that will enable local leaders to work with employers, universities, colleges, and industry bodies to produce long-term plans that identify growth sectors and put in place the programmes and infrastructure local areas need to thrive.

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