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CaSE responds to the Levelling Up White Paper

02 Feb 2022

The Government has published its ‘levelling up’ white paper, setting out ambitions on public R&D investment and skills.

CaSE’s initial analysis shows that the R&D investment target contained in the white paper (a one third increase in spending outside the Greater South East by 2024/25) will maintain the current R&D distribution across the UK. 

Commenting on this analysis, CaSE Executive Director Professor Sarah Main said:

“This investment represents the proportional share of planned R&D increases already announced by the government. It won’t alter the current balance of R&D investment but it will ensure that new R&D money is invested across the UK.”

Commenting on the importance of R&D in levelling-up:

“It’s heartening to see government recognise R&D as a vital factor in growth and prosperity for all parts of the UK. It’s also right that R&D investment should be considered alongside a broader package of measures involving skills and infrastructure to maximise local economic growth.”

On excellence:

“From our work we know that investing in excellence that exists, no matter how small or nascent, is the most effective way to build R&D strength and capacity. We look forward to the Government setting out the details on how it will take geographic location into account when making investment decisions: consideration of geographic investments should be made on basis of careful criteria, including existing R&D excellence, to yield greatest impact.”

On local leadership:

“Local leadership is vital in bringing together business, academic and civic expertise to maximise the effectiveness of R&D investment in promoting local economic growth. The Government has recognised the importance of local leadership in the white paper, now it must say what policy levers it will provide local leaders to maximise the local impact of innovation funding.”

We’re delighted to see the recommendations from our Power of Place report on local leadership covered in the government’s white paper.

On infrastructure:

“Infrastructure investment is an important catalyst for research and innovation growth. The Shared Prosperity Fund must retain R&D and innovation infrastructure as a core purpose.”

On education in schools:

“We know that provision of quality science education is patchy, with significant issues attracting and retaining science and maths teachers, particularly to schools in disadvantaged areas. As part of its levelling up strategy, the Government should re-double its efforts to ensure that high quality education and experiences in science and innovation are made available to all children.”

The white paper sets out 12 national missions to be achieved by 2030 which include:

  • Public R&D investment outside the Greater South East to increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, while seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment.
  • The number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths to have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third.
  • The number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training to have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.
  • The UK to have a nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.

Our comments recieved coverage in The Times.

CaSE’s Power of Place report

Last year CaSE published its Power of Place report, examining how to maximise the local economic impact of greater R&D intensity across the regions and nations of the UK. Investing in regional R&D can play a significant role in reaching the Government’s target of increasing R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and 3% in the long-term. The challenge of encouraging regional economic growth is likely to be even more important as the UK emerges from the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic and looks to rebuild its economy.

The report was designed to feed into the government’s levelling-up agenda and makes a series of recommendations including:

Excellence and Branding

  • Brand new regions of excellence can’t just be grown from scratch. Investment should be focussed on R&D excellence that already exists nationwide, whatever its size.
  • Brand is important: Regions need to develop their pitch for national and overseas investment

Local Leadership

  • Strong leadership is needed from local government, civic groups and the research sector
  • The best examples of regional R&D growth have been driven by strong civic leaders
  • Central and local government need to work together

Support small business

  • SMEs need a helping hand from local and national government to secure academic collaborations
  • A replacement for EU structural funds, that build research capacity and support small and local businesses, needs to be found

The report’s findings were based on views gathered from over 80 contributing organisations through an extensive consultation exercise across the UK, conducted over the last 18 months, including roundtables in Edinburgh, London, the West of England, the West Midlands, and the North East. 

Read our in-depth look at the White Paper

Read more