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Business, Charities, National Academies and Universities unite to appeal to Conservative leadership hopefuls.

21 Jul 2022

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

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

The group is urging Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to continue the welcome support for research, development and innovation by the current Government and deliver a strategic 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, Royal Society, MSD and the British Heart Foundation.

As CaSE’s analysis shows, current commitments take the UK close to the target to spend 2.4% of national wealth on R&D by 2027, but the UK still trails behind its international competitors.

Commenting on the statement, CaSE Executive Director Professor Sarah Main said:

“This joint statement shows just how important it is that the next Prime Minister puts science at the heart of the UK’s future. Doing so would send a signal to domestic and international researchers about the UK’s strength in research and innovation. It will stimulate ideas, innovation and investment that will improve people’s quality of life and prosperity.”

“To deliver on the promise of UK science, the next Prime Minister needs to back the committed investment with a strategic vision and plan 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, development and innovation (RDI).

The current administration has provided welcome support to RDI, including a commitment to increase public research and development (R&D) spending to £22bn a year by 2026/27 and drive economy-wide R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP in 2027.

We now ask the Conservative leadership contenders to continue that work and pledge to ensure the UK remains globally competitive in RDI, pushing to invest 3% of GDP in R&D and deliver a strong, prosperous and healthy future for our economy and society.

This must include a strategic, long-term approach to funding, immigration and the tax system, and continued close collaboration with the international research community. When it comes to collaboration, our first priority must be association to the EU’s flagship research & innovation funding programme, Horizon Europe, and maintaining the fruitful networks with researchers across Europe built up over decades.

The evidence is clear: investment in RDI drives productivity and raises living standards, benefitting people and communities across the whole of the UK. From the great challenges of our time, including COVID-19, climate change, energy 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 researchers and innovators that the UK is open for business and ready to embrace the opportunities of a changing world. Globally, our competitors & partners 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 bolstering the UK’s RDI excellence. This should build on the Government’s existing funding targets, with the ultimate aim to boost overall R&D investment to 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 ensure resilience in the face of future crises.

The UK already has considerable strengths in RDI, driven by the ambition and curiosity of talented people and world-class institutions across the nation. The next Prime Minister must not miss a beat in the effort to build on these strengths for the future success of UK research and innovation.

Researchers and innovators around the world are making decisions now about where they should work and invest to stay at the forefront of global RDI. Now is the time to reassert and deliver on plans to make the UK the place-to-be, maximising the benefits of RDI to the economy and to people’s lives.

The statement has been signed by Royal Society, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Biology, Institute of Physics, Association of Medical Research Charities, Campaign for Science & Engineering, Russell Group, Universities UK, UK Bioindustry Association, MSD, Cancer Research UK, The Institute of Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation, Midlands Innovation, Midlands Enterprise Universities, N8 Research Partnership, GW4, University of Lincoln, Oxford Cambridge Arc Universities Group, National Centre for Universities and Businesses