AIRTO welcomes 2020 budget pledges calling for More D!

AIRTO (the Association for Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations) has welcomed the government’s 2020 Budget announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, particularly the levels of public investment in science and innovation aimed at boosting and levelling-up economic growth.

AIRTO Chair, Dr Paul Howarth FREng, commented,

Recognising the unprecedented challenges that Her Majesty’s Government faces to protect the UK population and minimise the impact of the emerging Covid 19 pandemic on our economy, we are delighted to see continued recognition for the critical role of R&D and innovation in underpinning the Industrial Strategy for our national health, prosperity and competitiveness. But we are calling on policy makers to change the way we do things and prioritise a more DEVELOPMENT-focused approach to stimulate innovation and private investment in R&D – More-D!”

The crisis presented by Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of our national research and innovation capabilities, including those organisations that have come together to develop clinical diagnostic services, and those that are working against the clock as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium, under the leadership of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

AIRTO welcomes the increased level for investment in research and development (R&D) at £22 billion spending for per year higher than the £18 billion promised in the most recent Conservative Party manifesto, including specific commitments for:

  • expanding the cross‑cutting strategic science and resilience capabilities provided by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Government Office for Science (£2 million in 2020-21).
  • the animal health science facility at Weybridge (£1.4 billion over 10 years)
  • investment in nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles (£900 million)
  • a new ‘blue skies’ funding agency, modelled on the US’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA, programmes (£800 million)
  • new funding for academic research (£400 million)

AIRTO further welcomes investment pledges for clean growth, including growing new trees, restoring peatland, investing in transport infrastructure, more Carbon Capture and Storage, flood defences and resilience, electric vehicle charging hubs, and initiatives to tackle air and plastic pollution.

As the government develops further detailed plans for implementation through the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, AIRTO would urge changes to the way in which funding is deployed in order to maximise its impact. Innovation is critical for our national and global survival and competitiveness and must become the central pillar of our Industrial Strategy. Time is running out to reach 2.4% GDP for R&D by 2027! Efforts to boost R&D to this level over the last couple of decades have failed, despite repeated attempts of successive UK governments. Why? Because the ‘technology push’ approach has not worked. AIRTO contends that the recent strategy is skewed too heavily towards RESEARCH: ‘all the eggs have been placed in one basket’! Innovation is NOT always a linear process commencing in a laboratory. A fresh approach is needed to avert failure! The time has come to focus more on the ‘DEVELOPMENT’ aspects of R&D in our national strategic planning to complement our undoubtedly world-class research base.

If harnessed and resourced properly, the thriving Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector (which includes Public Laboratories, Catapults and private sector Industrial Research Organisations) can help underpin the UK’s status as a world-class Science and Innovation Superpower.

AIRTO is today releasing its latest position statement ‘More D! A more DEVELOPMENT-focused strategy for paving the way to IMPACT: Innovation that is Market Pulled, Applied, Commercially Translated!’

Through this position statement, which was developed in a consultation with key stakeholders across the UK led by our Vice-President Steve Yianni FREng, AIRTO is identifying the critical INTERVENTIONS that will be necessary to achieve greater impact and translation of R&D into innovation by commercial enterprises and public services, by:

  1. Changing the mix to spread the risk: delineating between the ‘R’ and the ‘D’ to invest in more DEVELOPMENT.
  2. Aiming for more MARKET PULL, as opposed to TECHNOLOGY PUSH.
  3. Being more mission-led: more collaboration orientated and less focus on competition at every step.
  4. Creating urgency in doubling public R&D spend to gear in the private sector.


AIRTO’s latest Position Statement 

Commenting on our latest position statement, AIRTO’s President, Professor Richard Brook OBE FREng, called on the government to go a further in making use of the Innovation, Research & Technology sector:

“We should like to see the government leverage the Innovation, Research and Technology sector even further to boost our capacity to deliver technology development services for industry, thereby stimulating private investment and creating high value jobs for UKplc.”


AIRTO is the representative body for the innovation sector in the UK. Its membership comprises sixty of the principle organisations operating in the UK’s Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) Sector. The IRT sector has a combined turnover of £6.9 billion per annum, employing over 57,000 scientific and technical staff. The sector contributes £34 billion to UK GDP per annum. AIRTO’s Members interface with industry, academia and government, working for both private and public sector clients. Members include not-for-profit and private sector Research and Technology Organisations (including Catapult Centres) and government Laboratories. Members are an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure for innovation, accelerating research outcomes and the exploitation of new products and services, and training significant numbers of staff at a wide range of educational levels.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Jane Gate, Executive Director: