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Cross sector call for the next Prime Minister to back science and innovation

27 Jun 2019

Business, charities, researchers and universities unite to appeal to Tory leadership candidates

A coalition representing some of the UK’s leading businesses, campaign organisations, universities and charities is today calling on the next Prime Minister to put research and innovation at the heart of their plan for UK prosperity, post-Brexit. 

The group is urging Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to deliver a concrete and overdue vision for UK R&D which builds upon existing pledges, to boost jobs and deliver vital medical, technological and social breakthroughs. The group includes the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Cancer Research UK, the CBI, the Royal Society, the Russell Group and Universities UK.

As CaSE’s analysis shows, despite having made a firm commitment to spend 2.4% of national wealth on R&D by 2027, the Government is not on track to meet its target and the UK already trails behind its international competitors.

Commenting on the statement, Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“This joint statement shows just how important it is that the next Prime Minister invests in the UK’s strength in science. It will stimulate ideas, innovation and investment that will improve people’s quality of life and attract global attention.”

“To deliver on the promise of UK science, the next Prime Minister needs to back vision with a plan and a budget that attracts cross-Government support and global attention.”

Joint statement in full

The next leader of the Conservative Party should commit to ensuring the UK remains a world leader in research and innovation.

We ask the Conservative leadership contenders to pledge their support for the R&D commitments necessary to ensure the UK remains globally competitive, delivering a strong and prosperous future for our economy and society post-Brexit.

The evidence is clear: investment in R&D drives productivity and raises living standards, benefitting people and communities across the whole of the UK. From the great challenges of our time, including cancer, climate change, food security and caring for an ageing society, to the creation of high-skilled jobs, new businesses, and the innovations that power our NHS – UK research and innovation has real-life impact.

It is vital that the next government sends a clear message to domestic and international investors that the UK is open for business and ready to embrace the opportunities of a changing world. Globally, our competitors such as Germany, Israel, South Korea and Japan already invest more than 3% of their GDP in R&D.

The next Prime Minister must set out a long-term plan for research and innovation investment up to 2030. This should build on the Government target to boost overall R&D investment initially to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 – and the longer-term aim of 3% of GDP. But words and targets will not be enough, the UK needs a coherent long-term plan to build our position as the global hub for new world-leading technologies, to draw on our strengths across multiple disciplines, to attract talent from around the world and to promote British entrepreneurship.

Action is overdue. The next leader of the Conservative Party will have the opportunity to be the Prime Minister who builds on the bold vision for UK R&D, putting us on a solid path to delivering it.

The statement has been signed by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Association of Medical Research Charities, the British Academy, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Cancer Research UK, the Confederation for British Industry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Russell Group and Universities UK.

Read the coverage of the statement by the BBC.


CaSE has published a new report, ‘Building on Scientific Strength; The Next Decade of R&D Investment’, on how the Government can stimulate a rise in the UK’s research intensity.

The UK Government has committed to increasing the UK’s research intensity by around a half, from 1.7% of GDP to 2.4% GDP over ten years, to create a more scientifically-enabled economy, drive productivity across the UK and bring R&D investment in the UK closer in line with other leading scientific nations.

R&D investment required to meet the target
The Government has made an initial pledge of an additional £7bn to UK R&D between 2016 and 2021. Ahead of the next Spending Review, CaSE calls on the Government to increase the scale of step-wise increments in R&D investment over the next five years, calculating that the Government needs to invest an additional £20.2bn between 2020/21 and 2024/25 to meet its target – around treble its initial commitment. This £20bn investment would attract a calculated £28bn of leveraged research investment from private sources over 15 year. Furthermore:
CaSE’s calculations show that failure to provide additional public investment in R&D would lead to stagnation, leaving the research intensity of the UK economy at 1.7% of GDP, which may even decline to 1.6% of GDP by 2027. This would represent a £12bn shortfall against the Government’s target in 2024.
If the Government continues to invest new money at the initial rate, but does not increase that rate, CaSE’s calculations show UK research intensity will grow but the Government will miss its target substantially, reaching 2.0% of GDP by 2027. The shortfall against the Government’s target in 2024 would be £6.5bn.  

Report recommendations on what Government can do to increase public R&D investment and incentivise private R&D investment.  

To increase public R&D investment:

  • Government needs a vision with a plan and a budget, that attracts cross-Government support and global attention.
  • New funding should sustain the unique breadth of the UK’s academic science base, which is an asset for discovery and global research partnership
  • Government should front-load investment in research infrastructure and future skills to ensure UK R&D capability can sustain growth

To incentivise private R&D investment, Government should:

  • invest in the science base because its exceptional strength is the primary reason R&D companies come to the UK
  • package the UK’s innovation offer simply and with greater appreciation of business needs
  • use the power of Government procurement to adopt innovation faster
  • make the fiscal environment for R&D internationally competitive by updating R&D tax credits