Opinions on global, regional and local level benefits
- Many people want their region to be home to lots of R&D activity, and believe this will generate local jobs, draw inward investment, and also benefit the UK as a whole. Notably, younger people are less likely to say that local R&D activity would generate local jobs or draw inward investment
- As many people would support a new research lab being built in their local area as would support a new school or wind farm. This support spans different demographic groups, although it was higher among those in socioeconomic group AB and those with higher levels of formal education attainment
- People are divided on where the benefits of R&D should be felt first. Many focus group participants viewed R&D as a collaborative endeavour to fix global problems, while other wanted to focus on tangible impacts that are closer to home, citing the local pride this generates and the personal benefits they could gain
To better understand the benefits people want to see from R&D, we explored how people valued R&D’s potential impacts at different distances – from locally, to nationally and globally.
To explore which local benefits people wanted to see from R&D, our July 2022 poll asked how important people felt it was for their region to carry out a lot of R&D. Some 79% of respondents in North East England, and around three-quarters of those in Northern Ireland and London (76% and 72%, respectively), said it was at least somewhat important for their region to carry out a lot of R&D.
Of these respondents, 71% were motivated by the local jobs that R&D could generate, followed by inwards investment in the area (64%) and benefits to the UK as a whole (53%). Notably, 18-24 year olds were less likely that those aged 65+ to say that R&D would generate new local jobs (60% vs 79%) or that it would bring investment to their area (47% vs 76%), but were equally likely to say it would open up local educational opportunities (56%).
In our October 2023 polling, two thirds (67%) of 1,094 respondents said they would like to see more R&D carried out in their local area. These proportions were similar among the 956 respondents who saw the same question posed for “Research & Innovation”.
When framed around local jobs, we found that almost half (49%) were neutral on whether new jobs in R&D should be in their area or elsewhere, with 35% saying they would prefer new jobs in R&D to be in their area rather than other parts of the country. Most respondents (57%) felt neutrally about whether new jobs in their area were in R&D or other sectors, with older people more likely respond neutrally than other age groups.
The biggest perceived benefits to having local R&D or R&I were more jobs in the area (57% for R&D), improvements to the local economy (50% for R&D) and having local people involved as participants (44% for R&D).
As the physical footprint of R&D expands within the UK, it is also important to consider people’s openness to having R&D facilities in their areas, and what benefits they expect to see from such developments. In our February 2023 polling, we found that about as many people would support a new research lab being built in their local area as would support a new school or wind farm. This is more than would support a new train station, factory or shopping centre. There was also support for the research lab option across different demographic groups, although it was higher among those in socioeconomic group AB and those with higher levels of formal education attainment.
When asked why, 62% of those who supported a new research lab being built said it would benefit the local economy, 60% said it would bring more well-paid jobs to their area. More than half (57%) said they just supported more research being carried out in general, while 56% thought it would bring educational opportunities for young people in the area.
The main points of opposition were the potential damage to the local environment (43%) and increased traffic (35%). The next most selected option was that it wouldn’t benefit the local economy (28%). Just 9% said that they thought the UK as a country already does enough research, and just 16% said they thought there were already enough research labs in the country.
In our October 2023 polling, we asked a similar question, but at an even more localised level, to test whether support changed when it was a more specific, local place. Some 70% (of 1,094) would support a proposal to build a new laboratory for carrying out R&D on their nearest high street, and 68% (of 956) would support the same proposal when framed around R&I.
As discussed earlier in this section, focus group participants rarely instinctively thought about the spillover benefits that might be generated by increased R&D happening locally, but these results suggest that these could be well-received if more clearly highlighted.
When asked to prioritise R&D projects where the impact would occur either locally, nationally or globally, focus group participants were divided. Many strongly supported R&D to tackle global issues, often tied to the idea that society needs to leave the world a better place for the next generation.
However, some participants wanted to see impacts from R&D being felt closer to home, for a range of reasons. Some wanted to see a clearer benefit to people like themselves, others felt a sense of pride in a local impact, and several expressed strong personal connections to a local R&D project.
The prioritisation of local benefits tended to increase when the question was framed around UK taxpayer money being spent on R&D – although some expressed support for taxpayer money being used to tackle global issues, particularly among those who were passionate about using R&D to protect the environment. Many also recognised that the benefits of R&D would apply beyond just the area where the work was carried out, and saw these ‘spillover’ benefits as a way to rationalise choosing R&D projects that were initially focused closer to home.