AIRTO leaders urge Government to conserve levels of collaborative research and innovation funding following the BREXIT vote

AIRTO’s letter to the Treasury and BIS Ministers

AIRTO, the Association for Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Business Secretary and the Science Minister. In the letter members of the AIRTO Board (which includes leaders of some of the UK’s major Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) Sector’s organisations) urge the Government to explore all opportunities to leverage scientific knowledge and the potential for innovation in order to preserve growth and productivity in the UK economy in the wake of the BREXIT vote. The letter offers engagement and dialogue to support the Government in the task ahead. A number of key issues are raised which AIRTO is urging the Government to tackle as a matter of priority to avoid damage to the UK’s capacity for innovation, including:

  • Preserving access to international networks and current levels of collaborative EU research and innovation, and funding for UK organisations during and following the transitionary period;
  • Making available additional UK sourced research and innovation funding to industry, the IRT Sector and universities in the transitionary period, and thereafter if access to EU funding sources cannot be secured post BREXIT. It is inevitable that granted research and innovation funding from the EU and other non-UK sources is going to fall in the immediate BREXIT aftermath. Loss of momentum is a threat to the UK’s skills base, technology ownership and competitiveness, while EU competitors will seek to capitalise on any emerging UK weaknesses;
  • Ensuring that the IRT Sector is involved in planning for BREXIT so that the best possible solutions are sought;

AIRTO is also calling on the Government to consider urgently the significant impact of BREXIT on other key factors that will limit the UK’s capacity to innovate including:

  • Partnering: the UK’s capacity to partner with RTOs and academic institutions, large business partners and SMEs in the EU, and to invest in local regional infrastructure to compensate for loss of any EU structural funding support.
  • People: scarcity of skills to underpin innovation is a major challenge for the UK, so the free movement of people is currently a benefit of EU membership but may be negatively impacted, and this would be very detrimental to IRT sector organisations wishing to attract EU talent and partners.
  • International industrial commitment to the UK: Uncertainty surrounding the future prospects for the UK economy will be detrimental to the IRT Sector because investment by multi-national technology intensive businesses provides an important stimulus and commercial customer base in sectors including pharmaceuticals, construction, aerospace, automotive and transport etc.
  • Innovation strategy: There is a risk that key staff in BIS and other Government Departments will be overburdened and additional resource is needed to avoid delays in the development of the National Innovation Plan or the establishment of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).
  • Regulation and Standards: The ability to shape and influence EU regulations remains extremely important. The impact of BREXIT for the UK’s Notified Bodies (which need to be based in an EU State to operate with EU clients) needs to be addressed.

IRT Sector organisations already do twice as much business with the Rest of the World as with EU clients. Nevertheless, diminution of links to EU collaboration networks and funding will hamper their capacity to advance innovation in the UK and for UK based clients and partners. While ready to expand even further their links with global partners, IRT organisations need continuity of access to current levels of public investment in research and innovation programmes and procurement contracts to maintain their leading edge in world markets.

Read the letter in full here

Note to Editors

The UK’s thriving Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) Sector, of which AIRTO represents approximately 80%, continues to punch well above its weight in the national economy, as shown by an independent study commissioned by AIRTO and carried out by Oxford Economics in 2014. The IRT Sector:

  • has tripled in size to £6.9Bn per annum since 2006
  • consumes just 0.3% of Government spend
  • displays productivity 45% higher than the national average
  • generates a contribution of >£32bn to UK GDP (>2.3% of the total) and >£13Bn to UK tax revenue
  • supports 140,100 jobs – equivalent total employment of Milton Keynes
  • directly employs >57,000 highly skilled people, equal to total academic staff of the Russell Group, and considerably more than Germany’s Fraunhofers

The sustained growth of the IRT Sector has the potential to significantly enhance UK productivity. Research suggests that every £1 spent in this area in recent years has generated, on average, £7 for the wider economy and that, more broadly, every £1 of public spending on R&D adds £4 to the value of market sector output.

Find out more from the Oxford Economics report

For further information please contact:

Dr Jane Gate, Executive Director, AIRTO
Tel: +44 (0)20 8943 6354