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UK Government must commit to 3% GDP target by 2020

1 December 2014

The Government must commit to a 3 per cent target of GDP of research and development (R&D) spending by 2020 to ensure the UK doesn’t lag behind international competitors, says the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee in its Business-University Collaboration report published today.

The BIS Committee finds that more than 30 years of under-investment in R&D has left the UK trailing countries such as the USA, Germany and France in science and innovation spending, threatening the opportunities for economic growth offered by the research excellence of the UK’s world class university system.

Adrian Bailey, Chair of the BIS Committee, said

In 1979, the UK was one of the most research-intensive economies in the world. Now amongst advanced industrial economies, it is one of the least. If the UK is going to punch its weight in the global economy, and help our businesses succeed in international markets, the Government needs to bridge this structural gap in research and development (R&D) funding and commit to a 3 per cent target of GDP spent on R&D by 2020.

To ensure the economic potential of our science base isn’t throttled, we call on the Government to protect the science budget in the next Spending Review and to use the forthcoming Science and Innovation Strategy to set out its plans to build capacity in our innovation system and articulate an ambitious vision for this sector.

The Committee visited Catapult centres at Milton Keynes and Harwell, Oxford, as part of its inquiry and its report finds the Catapult network has played a valuable role in harnessing the commercial benefits of science and innovation research. The Committee calls on the Government to back the recommendations of the recent Hauser Catapult review and expand the Catapult Network from the seven current centres to 20 by 2020 and 30 by 2030 and increase funding to Innovate UK.

The Committee heard encouraging news about the developing links between businesses and universities, offering businesses access to cutting-edge research, high-tech infrastructure and highly skilled people, while giving universities an opportunity to develop their applied research and demonstrate the impact of their work. However, the Committee finds that more can be done to improve communication between businesses and universities and calls for a co-ordinated approach to ensure the range of existing initiatives are utilised effectively.

Adrian Bailey MP, Chair, said

We have a world-class university research and science base in the UK but not enough is being done to harness the potential economic benefits of this expertise. Other countries, such as Germany, seem to get more value from their scientific activity than the UK. The Government needs to do more to bring businesses and universities together to realise the benefits of the cutting-edge research taking place across the country.

The Committee recommends that the Government establish a respected and impartial way to measure and evaluate the success of its initiatives to increase R&D activity, such as by reintroduction of the R&D scoreboard. These measures, alongside an ambitious long-term vision for the innovation system, should be built into the forthcoming Science and Innovation strategy.

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