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Government’s R&D spending commitments: MPs warn of grave consequences of backing out

22 October 2021

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, has written to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Business Secretary, calling again on the Government to uphold its commitment to a £22 billion fund for Research and Development by 2024–25. The Committee has also written to Sir Andrew Mackenzie, Chair of the principal science funding body UK Research and Innovation- who is in discussions with the Chancellor- to urge him to make the case strongly for investment in science.

On Wednesday, the Commons Committee heard from leading UK scientists including two Nobel Prize winners, who raised a number of concerns relating to the Government's upcoming Budget and spending review announcements on Wednesday 27 October, which Greg Clark reiterated in his letter. In particular:

  • It would be ‘immensely damaging’ to the future of UK research and development, should the commitment to £22 billion be deferred or downgraded.
  • 'Actual and reputational damage’ to matching private sector investments in science and innovation would be caused, should public investment commitments be suddenly reversed.
  • It would be ‘bewildering’ not to invest in the UK’s future prosperity at the very time when other leading science nations – all of whom have had fiscal pressures from Covid - are increasing their investments.

The Government must, say the Committee, use comparable baselines when announcing funding, and if R&D funding is within Government department budgets, there should be a requirement that it cannot be raided for day-to-day pressures.

In its letter to Sir Andrew, the Committee urges him to conduct ‘challenging, robust and forensic’ discussions ‘in his interactions with politicians, standing up for what is needed by UKRI and UK science and research.

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, said:

"This is a pivotal week for science. We are emerging from the ravages of Covid only because of the success of vaccines, which were the result of years of tenacious research including by UK scientists. Our leading global competitors are making big long-term bets that science and innovation is essential to their future prosperity. When it was elected in 2019 the Government was bold and visionary in committing to double the science budget to £22bn by 2024/5. It is more important than ever to keep faith with that commitment for this Parliament not to abandon it or delay it."

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