Superpower for science: Rishi Sunak pledges £20bn a year to fund research and tech ‘that will change world’
- Britain is set to be turned into a global ‘science and technology superpower’
- Pledge will see £20billion a year of funding given for groundbreaking research
- Rishi Sunak hopes to attract the world’s brightest workers to come to the UK
- Government set a target of 2024 to reach £20billion a year for R&D investment
Britain will be turned into global ‘science and technology superpower’ with £20billion a year of funding for groundbreaking research.
The pledge was one of a string of policies announced by Rishi Sunak to encourage companies to plough cash into their businesses and to attract the world’s brightest workers to come to the UK.
The Government has set a target of 2024 to reach £20billion a year for research and development (R&D) investment, then rising to £22billion by 2026.
R&D is a broad term encompassing everything from drug companies running clinical trials to building satellites and designing artificial intelligence systems.
Britain will be turned into global ‘science and technology superpower’ with £20billion a year of funding for groundbreaking research. Pictured: Pioneer Tim Peake
Mr Sunak said: ‘We need to do what the people of this country have always done – invent, discover, and create the ideas and technologies that will change the world.’
The R&D commitment follows the burst in innovation British firms and universities showed when the pandemic struck, such as the creation of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine.
It also bolsters efforts for the UK to develop green energy technology.
A Government source said: ‘We’ve seen the best of British science throughout the pandemic, so it’s absolutely right we’re backing our best minds with a record increase in R&D investment.
‘With this massive settlement, we can go even further to turn our country’s collective genius into new industries, technologies, products and services that can compete worldwide and improve people’s lives for the better.’
Other proposals intended to keep British businesses at the cutting-edge include making it easier for foreign firms to relocate to the UK.
And a network will be set up in the US, India and other countries to identify talented individuals from overseas universities and research institutions – who will then receive support to emigrate to Britain.
It was one of a string of policies announced by Rishi Sunak (pictured) to encourage companies to plough cash into their businesses and to attract the brightest workers to the UK
Next year it will launch in two locations in the US – San Francisco and Boston. It will also go live in Bengaluru in India before adding another six countries in 2023.
Ministers also said the R&D spending will allow the UK to become the first country to launch a rocket into orbit from Europe next year.
The rise to £20billion of spending on R&D a year by the end of the current Parliament represents an increase of 50 per cent.
But some firms and unions were left disappointed by the Government’s timeline as it was initially aiming to provide £22billion of R&D funding a year by 2024.
By setting a new target of 2026, Mr Sunak has pushed the deadline beyond the next election, putting the policy at risk if there is a change of government.
Verity Davidge, director of policy at manufacturing body Make UK, said: ‘The Government’s decision to push back on its target R&D expenditure is a disappointing response to the Government’s ambition to be a science superpower.
‘With two-thirds of all R&D expenditure coming from the UK manufacturing, this move undermines future business confidence to invest in new technologies and innovations.’
But other scientific leaders welcomed the commitment and praised the Government for laying out a clear timeline to reach the £22billion target.
Professor Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said: ‘It is not absolutely ideal. But we are grown-ups. There are real pressures on the economy, but the Government is saying that it really does recognise that R&D is absolutely vital.’