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CBI calls on government and businesses to increase R&D investment

The CBI says the UK should commit to spending 3% of GDP on research and development to avoid being left behind post-Brexit

A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for government and industry to work together to increase research and development (R&D) spend to keep the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation. 

The report calls for R&D spend to be raised to 3% of GDP by 2025 as the current combined spend from government and industry is only 1.7%, which the CBI said is “well below the spending of many international rivals”.

“A long-term strategy to bolster total spend on R&D to 3% of GDP would send an important signal about the stability and sustainability of our science and innovation ecosystem in a post-Brexit world, supporting private sector R&D investment, jobs, and economic growth. Together, government and industry must take responsibility,” the report said.

In November 2016, prime minister Theresa May promised an extra £2bn of government investment in R&D a year, something which was echoed both in the Autumn Statement and the government industrial strategy greenpaper.   

Some of the funding will come through the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which will be overseen by UK Research and Innovation. The fund will cover R&D in areas such as smart energy technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence, and 5G mobile network technology.

The CBI said the industrial strategy “presents a unique opportunity to ensure the UK remains a key player in science and innovation”, but the country’s position as a world leader in those fields is at risk.

CBI innovation director Tom Thackray said with Article 50 about to be triggered, “now is the time for firms to get innovating and get ahead”.  

“UK innovation has some great strengths, including ground-breaking research at our universities, but we need to get better at turning these into final products,” he said.

“For years, the UK has under-invested and this country’s spending on R&D has stagnated as more countries race ahead. We want to see a long-term commitment to business and government spending 3% of GDP on R&D.

“We want to see the government and business community putting innovation at the very heart of our economic future. The government has taken positive steps and the new industrial strategy will provide a genuine opportunity to take a leap forward.”

To achieve the 3% target, the CBI set out a series of areas where improvement is needed. This includes improving public funding and incentives, culture and skills, collaboration, regulation and public services procurement.

“To become an innovation leader, UK business needs to take steps to bolster collaboration across sectors, in the supply chain and with universities, catapults and research organisations,” the report added. 

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