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Andrew Palmer
Business Editor
2:26 AM 1st July 2020

Government Fires Up R&D Across The Country To Cement The UK As Science Superpower

New plans to cement the UK as the world’s leading research and science superpower have been set out by the Business Secretary Alok Sharma today (1 July 2020).

The Research and Development Roadmap, puts pursuing ground-breaking research, attracting global talent, and cutting unnecessary red tape at the forefront of our long-term plan to ensure the UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate. This will help to power up economic recovery and level up the UK.

£300 million will also be brought forwards to upgrade scientific infrastructure across the UK through the government’s World Class Labs funding scheme. This funding will enable research institutes and universities to make sure UK researchers have access to better lab equipment, digital resources, and to improve and maintain current research facilities.

The Roadmap will also support the government’s efforts to address global challenges from eradicating our contribution to climate change by 2050 and developing new medicines, to improving life at home by strengthening national security and improving public services.

To achieve this, the government has today committed to:

increasing investment in ground-breaking research, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and setting ambitious new goals for research to keep the UK ahead in cutting-edge discoveries
attracting, retaining and developing top talent to ensure the UK is the best place for researchers to work, offering careers at all stages that attract a diverse range of people. The government will also establish a new Office for Talent, making it easier for top global science, research and innovation talent to come to the UK
securing the economic and societal benefits of world-class research across the UK by setting up a new Innovation Expert Group to review and improve how the government supports research, from idea stage right through to product development
supporting our innovators and risk-takers by backing entrepreneurs and start-ups with the funding needed to scale up their innovations, as well as ensuring the UK is making the most of its first-class industries and technologies
boosting international collaboration to ensure the UK benefits from global scientific partnerships. This will create new opportunities for trade, growth and influence for the science and innovation communities and research institutions
aiming to maintain a close relationship with European partners by seeking to agree a fair and balanced deal for participation in EU R&D schemes. If the UK does not associate with programmes such as the EU’s research programme, Horizon Europe, the government will commit to meeting any funding shortfalls and putting in place alternative schemes to support vital UK research


The new Office for Talent is a team based in No. 10 with delivery teams across government departments. It will ensure the UK’s talent offer is stronger than ever for students, those building their careers, and those who are already world leaders in their fields, and will make it easier for those with the most talent, potential, energy and creativity to come to the UK from around the world.

The Office will begin work immediately to review the effectiveness of the current rules and ensure excellent customer service across the immigration system, so that it is simple, easy, and quick. They will also help those coming to the UK better understand the opportunities on offer and break down any barriers they might face.
Alok Sharma MP
Alok Sharma MP

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "The UK has a strong history of turning new ideas into revolutionary technologies – from penicillin to graphene and the world wide web. Our vision builds on these incredible successes to cement Britain’s reputation as a global science superpower.

The R&D Roadmap sets out our plan to attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

Today’s announcement, is on top of the £280 million provided to universities to continue their cutting-edge work during the coronavirus pandemic, such as research into antibiotics resistance and the effects of coronavirus on society, by covering the costs of equipment and salaries. A new research funding scheme also opens this Autumn to cover up to 80% of a university’s income losses from a decline in international students."

Felicity Burch,
Felicity Burch,
Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Digital and Innovation, said:“This Roadmap asks the questions the UK needs to answer to deliver on the 2.4% R&D target and create an R&D led recovery but it needed more answers. The Coronavirus crisis has shown that when government, business and the research sector work together they can deliver incredible results at pace. Now is the time to find solutions to the questions the Roadmap poses with the same sense of urgency.

“For businesses, quick wins that government can look to implement rapidly include increasing funding for Innovate UK, establishing new mechanisms to support business uptake of new technologies and strengthening the purpose of the Catapults by creating innovation zones or Catapult Quarters.”

Radeep Mathew,
Radeep Mathew,
Radeep Mathew, Head of Consulting (Innovation Funding), Leyton “The announcement today is a welcome one, but it will need to be reflected in meaningful genuine action and far greater financial support if the government’s R&D plan is to be effective. We’ve already seen an exodus of talented researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs in recent years as a result of repeated missteps on immigration and R&D investment. Now, facing Covid-19 and a huge recession, as well as the potential threat posed by Brexit, it is more crucial than ever to plan for the future of our economy. Risk-taking and innovation will be crucial to this, and the decision to create a new “Office of Talent” to fast-track this process is a step in the right direction.”

Professor Karen Holford CBE
Professor Karen Holford CBE
Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng FLSW said:
"This is unquestionably a time of uncertainty and challenge for research and innovation in the UK, yet we are also faced with a great opportunity to build back better with R&D at the heart of the economy. The publication of the R&D Roadmap confirms the government’s ambition to make that a reality. We are looking forward to working with the full breadth of the community and being part of the conversation that will follow. Investing in R&D is investing in the future.

We are a community of many parts - from the researchers in our universities pushing the boundaries of knowledge, the start-ups and entrepreneurs embracing risk, the innovators and businesses that are powered by R&D, to the institutions providing expertise and facilities. But working in collaboration with government we can be greater than the sum of our parts and deliver even more for the economy and society.

"I am particularly encouraged by the ambition to work across the devolved administrations and key stakeholders, the opportunity to maintain the positive collaborative behaviours emerging as a result of COVID-19 and the recognition of equality, diversity and inclusion as a critical aspect of research culture."

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

Dame Ottoline Leyser
Dame Ottoline Leyser
"Research and innovation are national strengths, central to our well-being, our economy, and our prosperity. The government’s R&D Roadmap emphasises this importance, sets out a clear ambition and recognises the vital role UK Research and Innovation will play in unlocking its full potential.

"UKRI welcomes the continued commitment to a record increase in public investment in R&D to £22 billion a year by 2024/25. This investment will allow us to build, with others, an inclusive knowledge economy across the UK, a system we are all part of and proud of, which we can all contribute to and benefit from."