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New evidence: science investment boosts growth

30 Apr 2014

A new independent report for CaSE shows that investing public money in science and engineering is good for the economy

The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base examines the economic impact of public investment in the UK science base.

The report looks in detail at the relationship between public funding of science and engineering and three levels of economic activity: total factor productivity growth in industries; ability of universities to attract external income; and interaction between individual researchers and the wider economy.  

The report shows that, at the level of industries, universities and individual researchers, public investment in science and engineering leads to economic growth.

The new report provides compelling evidence that public investment in scientific research leads to:

  • Economic growth through an increase in private sector productivity
  • Beneficial economic and societal impacts through increased interaction between the academic and private sectors

It adds crucial evidence to support advice that government can drive economic growth by investing in science and engineering research.

Director of CaSE, Dr Sarah Main, said:

“This new economic analysis shows us how the UK’s exceptional science and engineering sector can be the corner stone of our economy. The UK has a world-class reputation for scientific research, which innovative industries want to access. Government will reap great rewards by investing in science through university and research funding because it raises our knowledge base and acts as a magnet for private sector investment.”

Report author, Professor Alan Hughes, said:

“The report provides clear evidence that academics receiving public sector research funding are also those most likely to engage with the private sector. It also provides compelling evidence that public and private sector research expenditures are complementary. They should not be seen as substitutes in the drive to enhance the productivity performance of the UK.”

Report author, Professor Jonathan Haskel, said:

“The UK research and science base should be regarded as a vital part of British infrastructure, delivering strong economic returns and helping economic growth.”

In the light of this new evidence, CaSE calls for current and future governments to recognise that public spending on science and engineering is an investment with significant benefits for the economy and society.

The report written by Professor Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College Business School), Professor Alan Hughes and Dr Elif Bascavusoglu-Moreau (both at University of Cambridge). It was funded by a consortium of six CaSE members: British Pharmacological Society, The Geological Society, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, Society of Biology.

Two Page Briefing

CaSE, in conjunction with the funders of the report, wrote a two page briefing note that accompanies the report.  The note conveys eight key messages for policy makers:

  • Public expenditure on science and engineering research is an investment that generates economic growth
  • There is a complementary relationship between industry and public sector research and development (R&D)
  • Synergy between the public and private sectors is vital to generate economic growth
  • Putting money into UK public sector R&D attracts private investment from overseas
  • Public investment in research increases rather than diminishes private sector investment
  • Investment in science and innovation is not and should not be seen as a zero-sum game in which public and private investment can substitute for each other
  • The public sector can play an important role by connecting public and private research
  • Publicly-funded academics are among the most outwardly engaged researchers