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The five-point roadmap to making the UK a ‘science superpower’

14 Sep 2021

CaSE has published its five-point roadmap for making the UK a ‘science superpower’. The roadmap forms the centrepiece of CaSE’s asks for the Comprehensive Spending Review on October 27th.

The Government has set a target to boost its investment in R&D to £22bn per year by 2024/25 and the spending review is an important moment to make progress towards that target. CaSE is arguing strongly for continued investment in R&D as a driver of economic recovery and prosperity.

The roadmap sets out the best route towards cementing the UK’s role as a ‘science superpower’, as well as warning of the wrong turns to avoid at each step of the journey. We will be using the asks in the roadmap to influence the spending review through direct engagement with Government, engagement with the wider sector, and further profile raising across the media and other networks.

Update: With the Spending Review now announced by the Chancellor, CaSE has taken the opportunity to rate the review against each of the five points. This follows on from our analysis on what the review means for science and engineering

Elsewhere, CaSE Assistant Director Daniel Rathbone has set out CaSE’s key asks from the 2021 Spending Review and the rationale behind them in more detail.

The five asks are also set below:


1. Publish a full budget trajectory to make the R&D targets work harder

HM Treasury should set out an R&D budget for the remainder of this Parliament, showing how the £22bn R&D investment target, and wider ambitions to raise R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP, will be met. CaSE members tell us that strong leadership and long-term certainty from Government gives businesses the confidence to invest in R&D themselves.  

WRONG TURN: Short-term budgets stifle science

Year-by-year budgeting chokes off the confidence boost offered by the ambitious £22bn target, with businesses taking their R&D investments elsewhere in the world.

2. Use increasing R&D investment to strengthen the foundations

UKRI should continue to expand the budget allocated to discovery research, as a vital counterpart to growing mission-driven funding streams. This will build on the increased allocations in last year’s spending review, which are safeguarding the UK’s reputation as a world-leader in discovery research.

WRONG TURN: Unbalanced growth weakens the UK’s R&D performance

A narrow approach to investment leaves discovery research underpowered and unable to deliver the dynamic environment in which mission-driven R&D, such as the new ARIA programme, are able to thrive.  

3. Channel science and technology into all parts of government

HM Treasury should support increased R&D budgets across Whitehall departments, in line with rising public investment in R&D. The new Office for Science and Technology Strategy offers a chance to co-ordinate this embedded R&D in a powerful way, helping Departments get the most out of their investments.

WRONG TURN: Public services miss out on the benefits of innovation

With most Departments shut out of increasing R&D investment, public services can’t access the full benefits of the UK being a science superpower.

4. Deliver R&D opportunities for every region of the UK

The Government must set out details of the innovation element of the Shared Prosperity Fund, detailing how institutions across the UK will be able to access the fund. The Shared Prosperity Fund will support the collaboration between small businesses and universities that drives growth and jobs in all parts of the UK, and in particular those areas with the most untapped potential.  

WRONG TURN: New R&D investment leaves some areas short-changed

A lack of clarity around the Shared Prosperity Fund disadvantages certain people based on their location, and fails to make the most of R&D’s role in “levelling-up” and driving local prosperity.  

5. Attract the R&D workforce that the UK needs for tomorrow

The Departments for Education and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy must work together to boost investment in high-quality science education. The focus must be on attracting an increasingly diverse group of people to become scientists and engineers, and equipping all young people with the skills to take advantage of the UK being a ’science superpower’.

WRONG TURN: The UK’s R&D strategy is all £s and no people

Underinvestment, unchallenged stereotypes and uninspiring courses see many young people put off by STEM subjects from an early age, sowing the seeds for a workforce crunch just as the UK is reaching its ambitious £22bn investment target.   


A thriving R&D sector sits at the heart of the UK’s future, delivering greater prosperity for communities across the country, and cementing the UK’s role as a ‘science superpower’ that can be a force for good on the global stage.

Five-point roadmap for making the UK a 'science superpower'

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