Government lacks clear plan to meet research investment target

20 April 2018

The Public Accounts Committee report also highlights concerns over impact of Brexit, leadership effectiveness and safeguarding of benefits.

Aim to increase R&D investment lacks ambitious plan

The Government aims to increase total UK investment in research from 1.68% in 2015 to 2.4% of GDP in 2027 but it lacks an ambitious plan for how it will achieve this.

The Government has already committed to spending an additional £7 billion on research over five years. However, without more investment by the private sector there is a risk that the Government may need to spend even more to meet its target.

Research in the health sector is well-coordinated but the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not done enough to identify where other areas of research are lagging behind.

UK will not develop skills without effective leadership

Without effective leadership in key emerging technologies such as robotics, the UK will not develop the skills it needs in the future, and productivity and economic growth could suffer.

The Government needs to make sure it protects Government Intellectual Property rights as part of its investment programme.

Chair's comments

Comment from Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP:

"Research and development has a critical role to play in the economic prosperity of the UK.

It is vital the Government delivers value for every pound of public money invested and has a robust plan to secure necessary levels of funding from other sources.

There is work to do on both fronts, complicated by the uncertainty over funding and skills created by Brexit.

It is concerning that, having made ambitious promises on research investment for the coming decade, Government does not know how those commitments will be met nor at what cost to taxpayers. This must be addressed.

But Government also needs a better grasp of the detail. If it is to direct resources wisely it must understand which areas of research have skills gaps, which need stronger leadership and exactly who is funding what.

There is a clear role here for the new umbrella body, UK Research and Innovation, and as a priority we expect it to work with central Government to identify areas of weakness or overlap so that appropriate action can be taken."

Further information

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