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Put R&D at the heart of ‘levelling-up ‘agenda, CaSE tells Minister

09 Nov 2020

CaSE has written to the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, highlighting the importance of structural funding to drive forwards the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda by supporting R&D.

With EU structural funding coming to an end once the UK leaves the EU, CaSE has called on the Government to re-commit to its proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and give greater emphasis towards supporting scientific research and innovation to tackle regional inequalities and promote UK-wide economic growth.

You can read the letter from CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main below:

Dear Minister,

In its recent R&D roadmap, the UK Government re-stated its very welcome commitment to raise R&D investment to unprecedented levels. It also stated that the Government should ‘do more to enable places all over the UK to thrive and to fulfil their potential in R&D’ and that a ‘commitment to R&D effectively supporting the wider levelling up agenda runs through this Roadmap’.

We strongly support this commitment to making the most of R&D strengths across the UK, which will allow the country to capitalise on longer-term economic opportunities and tackle longstanding regional inequalities. CaSE recently published a report, The Power of Place, that set out a number of recommendations for how this could be done, including through the use of structural funds.

In many parts of the UK, European Structural and Investment Funds such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) have played vital roles in R&D, particularly in supporting universities’ role in economic development. In The Power of Place, CaSE found that ‘a significant proportion of these [EU structural] funds have historically been allocated for research and innovation, helping to support a wide array of projects building research capacity across the UK’. EU structural funds are distributed on the basis of economic need rather than research excellence so they have a different geographic distribution to other government support for research and innovation. Significant concentrations of ERDF for R&D have become established in some parts of the country. For example, the Learned Society of Wales has shown that the per capita contribution of ERDF to research and innovation in Wales is €125 per capita: five times the UK average of €23 per capita.

While UK participation in EU structural funding will come to an end now the UK has left the EU, the R&D roadmap from BEIS makes no mention of their replacement the Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). We welcome the Government’s commitment to ‘create a UKSPF which binds together the whole of the United Kingdom, tackling inequality and deprivation in each of our four nation’. There is a strong case to be that an R&D dimension to the UKSPF will help meet that commitment. Structural funds have often supported projects that allow small businesses to be innovative and build links to universities. This helps turn world class research in life sciences, renewable energy and other areas important to our future prosperity and quality of life into products and services that can be exploited and lead to economic growth.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss further, with you and your team, the important role R&D can play in the UKSPF and levelling-up across the whole UK.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sarah Main

Executive Director

Campaign for Science and Engineering

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