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Our achievements: Providing the economic evidence for investing in R&D

CaSE is celebrating a selection of its achievements from the last decade; here we highlight our attempts to transform the government’s attitude to investing in science and research from 2010.

CaSE’s strength: The importance of evidence to underpin what we want to say

From 2010 onwards the science budget appeared under threat

Under the coalition government in 2010 there was a significant squeeze on public finances as part of a programme of austerity. All government departments were required to cut back on spending to secure a ‘flat cash’ environment, in other words maintaining the same amount of spending year on year, and so the science budget was frozen in the 2010 Spending Review. Taking inflation into account, this settlement threatened to cut the science budget by 10% in real terms over the next four years.

CaSE gathered the economic evidence

CaSE played an important role in transforming the government and the treasury’s attitude towards the funding of science and research, based largely on a piece of work that we commissioned soon after 2010. We first held conversations with government officials on what evidence might be needed to make a renewed argument for an increased settlement on R&D at the next Spending Review. CaSE then commissioned a piece of work by Professor Jonathan Haskel and Professor Alan Hughes to back this up, The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base. This detailed economic study demonstrated that for every pound of public money invested in R&D, an extra 20p would be generated for the economy in perpetuity.

We made sure this evidence was heard by experts in government

The report had a serious economic message which was heard in Westminster. As well as commissioning the study from individuals that were respected by government, CaSE booked the authors into the treasury’s lunchtime seminar series, giving their economists and analysts to opportunity to listen, engage and process the findings of the report. This was a great success and led to a change in approach and mindset among Treasury officials, helping imbed the findings of the study into the government’s own evidence base making the case for increased investment in R&D. The report became a trusted source in government and was cited both by the Chancellor and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2014, and the study has gone on to be referenced by numerous other sources, both inside and outside of government.

The government changed course on R&D investment

The report was a key piece of evidence in the run-up to 2016, at which point the government finally started ramping up investment in R&D. Through providing a solid evidence base and having the right conversations with policy-makers and officials at the right time, CaSE changed the government’s attitude to investing in science and research.