AIRTO’s letter to Innovate UK requesting support for UK Research and Innovation organisations

AIRTO, the Association of Innovation, Research & Technology Organisations applauds Her Majesty’s Government for all the hard work it is doing to save lives during the Covid19 pandemic. We recognise that both the government and Civil Service are working under intense pressure to make the right
decisions at pace for the whole population, and we recognise all the hard work that is going into the national fight against this disease, and the economic consequences. AIRTO and its members are keen to support the government and our society during this time of unprecedented national challenge.

AIRTO represents the UK’s Innovation, Research & Technology (IRT) sector (encompassing Public Sector Research Establishments, PSREs, Catapult Centres and long-established Research & Technology Organisations, RTOs), which employs more than 57,000 highly skilled people and adds an estimated £34Bn of GVA per annum to the economy. Many of our members are involved in governmental and public service work which underpins the UK’s safety and security, through providing testing services, and run important, unique pieces of infrastructure which are critical to the continuation of business, health and daily life in UK. Many of these laboratories are reliant on support from Innovate UK to continue their important work in the service of UK plc, and to serve businesses to drive innovation.

There are number of immediate issues presented by the Covid-19 crisis that are impacting AIRTO members, and we are calling on UKRI to continue to bolster businesses and the national innovation infrastructure to adjust to these unprecedented circumstances. We are calling on Innovate UK to:

1. Provide continued access to project grant funding: urgent action is needed to allow funding to
be ‘drawn down’ on grants on the basis of costs incurred, even in the absence of project milestones being fully achieved.

2. Assist the sector in seeing ‘key workers’ in laboratories identified as such by the Department of Education: clarification is still needed for roles delivering critical services.

3. Mitigate for the diminishing R&D budgets of customers including SMEs: support those organisations which invest in R&D and outsource projects to the IRT sector. This includes support to
encourage large businesses to continue investing in R&D once the crisis period is over – essential to
helping to kick start the economy, and to help the UK continue towards its goal of seeing 2.4% GDP for
R&D by 2027. The government must protect the pledges to R&D spending announced in the 2020

4. Harnessing the capabilities of the IRT sector: Identify opportunities to commission new research
resulting from the unique circumstances presented by the UK population’s movement restrictions, so as
to avoid furloughing skilled staff e.g., in relation to the UK’s Grand Challenges such as the ageing population and climate changes.

Read more…AIRTO letter – 26 March 2020 support for Research and Innovation organisations the UK during Covid 19 pandemic


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 and academia, working for both private and public sector clients. Members include not-for-profit and private sector Research and Technology Organisations (including Catapult Centres), government laboratories and some university enterprise offices. 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: