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CaSE launches the Discovery Decade

21 Sep 2021

CaSE has appointed an exciting team to lead the new Discovery Decade project. Backed by a major grant from the Wellcome Trust, the project aims to attract a broader group of public supporters who can help keep R&D investment on the Prime Minister’s priority list.

The UK Government has committed to a major boost for R&D investment. If realised, public R&D spending will double to £22bn by 2024, and the UK will be investing 2.4% of GDP into R&D by 2027. But with the UK’s current levels of R&D investment trailing behind Slovenia, Iceland and a long list of other countries, these targets only serve to narrow the gap.

Betting big on R&D is just one of many competing visions for the UK’s future. As we set out to ‘build back better’ after the pandemic, this new project aims to secure a place for discovery at the heart of that recovery.

Appointed as Chair of the Discovery Decade project, Kim Shillinglaw is the former Controller of BBC2 and architect of the BBC’s Year of Science and Make it Digital campaigns. A long-standing champion for research and innovation, Kim has been a trustee at NESTA and EngineeringUK, sits on the board of the Raspberry Pi foundation, and is a Non-Exec Director at Natural Environment Research Council and Natural England.  

Commenting on her new role, Kim said:

“We’re a creative and innovative nation, but Britain needs to significantly up its game to compete. As things stand, the UK’s investment in R&D isn’t just trailing our global counterparts, we’re struggling to even keep up with Amazon.  

The more people who share a positive vision of R&D, the better, and the sector urgently needs to bring more supporters into that tent.”

Appointed as Director of the Discovery Decade project, Ben Bleasdale will be spearheading the project’s team and its collaboration with the wider sector. He joins CaSE as a long-standing advocate for R&D investment, with previous roles at the Wellcome Trust, Academy of Medical Sciences and Medical Research Council.

Commenting on the news, Ben said:

“The Discovery Decade will help us cut through the blur of successive Budgets and Spending Reviews. A broader base of public supporters will keep R&D on the PM’s priority list and secure the long-term settlement we need.

What lies ahead is an experiment – researching our public audience, developing creative ideas to reach them, and measuring the effect. To succeed, we’ll need willing partners keen to share their expertise and road-test new ideas with us.”

Welcoming this expansion of CaSE’s team and remit, Executive Director Professor Sarah Main said:

“The Discovery Decade project adds an exciting new dimension to CaSE’s work to ensure the UK has a thriving environment for science and engineering. A broad and active base of public support for R&D investment will strengthen CaSE’s existing advocacy to Government and, importantly, help deliver the widest possible benefit of that investment to society.”

We couldn’t ask for a better leadership team for this project than Kim and Ben. Their talents complement each other perfectly and will help us understand and reach a wider set of public supporters.”


  1. For further information about the Discovery Decade staffing team see here.
  2. On international comparisons: UK public investment in R&D in 2021-22 is £14.9 billion, approximately £224 per head. Relative to the size of its economy, the UK invests less into R&D than Slovenia, Belgium or Iceland, and less than half as much as Israel and Korea.
  3. Amazon R&D budget statistics can be found here.
  4. This work builds on the CaSE-Wellcome joint R&D Decade project which reviewed the advocacy options of the sector over the last eighteen months.