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Our achievements: Advocating for science at the 2021 spending review

CaSE is celebrating a selection of its achievements from the last decade; here we highlight our efforts to successfully influence the 2021 Spending Review.

CaSE’s strength: Harnessing the media and bringing the entire sector together to speak with one voice

Preparing for the Spending Review

With the Government having previously announced ambitious targets to boost investment in R&D, the 2021 Spending Review was an important moment to make progress towards these.

Back in September we published our five-point roadmap, drawn up in discussion with our members and forming the centrepiece of our asks from the review. 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. Meanwhile behind the scenes we held discussions with HM Treasury, UKRI and other senior parts of government to feed our messaging into the Spending Review process and understand where we could be most effective.

CaSE heard worrying news about spending commitments

Through our close working relationship with members, government and funders, it become apparent that real consideration was being given to Government dropping their commitments on R&D investment, and that concerted action was needed to keep them on the right track.

So we pushed our analysis in the media

In the weeks leading up to the Spending Review we piled on the pressure by publishing new analysis warning that the UK risks missing out on billions in private R&D investment if the government delays its timetable for investing in science. This was quickly followed by further analysis showing that the UK has stagnated on R&D spending over the last 20 years as other nations have rushed forward, and that while the UK’s target for research intensity remains an ambitious one, the UK may still find itself behind other countries in the G7 and beyond, unless its renews its effort on R&D investment. Thanks to our relationships in the media we were able to highlight these messages in the Financial Times and BBC News.

And worked with the entire sector to raise our concerns

At the same time as pushing our own analysis, we continued to work with the entire sector. We joined 32 other leading organisations, including Cancer Research UK, The Royal Society and The Francis Crick Institute, to call on the Chancellor to commit to the Government’s public R&D investment targets at the review. We also worked closely with our membership, putting their views and concerns directly in front of Government Ministers. We also held a series of roundtables with representatives from UKRI, including an exclusive member event with the former Science Minister Lord Willetts on what to expect from the review.

Resulting in a positive outcome for the sector

Overall, the review was a positive result for UK science and engineering, with the Chancellor placing research and innovation at the heart of his plan for growth. You can read our original response to the Spending Review, as well as further analysis we published in the following days. The Government have now committed to investing £20 billion in R&D by 2024/25 – a 34% increase from 2021/22. While we’re disappointed that they’ve pushed back their £22bn target to 2026, the result could have been a lot worse for the sector.

Looking ahead

Following its publication, we’ve now taken the opportunity to rate the Spending Review against each of the five points of our roadmap.  While there are plenty of positives, more work is needed to maximise the UK’s scientific potential. While Government has committed to its ambition of investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027, our updated projection model shows that the UK’s research intensity would reach 2.33% of GDP in 2027. We’re therefore calling on the Government to re-double its efforts to maintain business confidence and investment to ensure this goal becomes a reality.