AIRTO welcomes Chancellor’s Spending Review

AIRTO is fully committed to supporting the UK government in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and the development of the UK as a Science and Innovation Superpower. Continued commitment to the ambition of reaching 2.4% of GDP for investment in R&D by 2027, and the government’s associated financial support, are both crucial if the UK is to fully exploit its potential for innovation and the knowledge reservoir resulting from its world-leading science base. In this context, AIRTO welcomes the outcome of the Chancellor’s Spending Review, and in particular:

  • the government’s ongoing and increased support for UK science and innovation coupled with the restated intent to deliver on its ambitions to: (i) raise the level of UK spend on R&D; (ii) secure a world-leading position as a science superpower; (iii) boost the UK’s progress towards achieving Net Zero through technological innovation;
  • the decision to open UKRI’s grant competitions to UK public sector laboratories.
  • the commitment to invest in better exploitation and translation of government-owned intangible intellectual property assets into new high-tech jobs, businesses and economic growth;
  • plans for the Cabinet Office to streamline and improve government procurement and project delivery in the context of infrastructure investments. Implementing this plan should be used as an opportunity to pull through the adoption of innovative products, services and working practices into the wider economy.

Recognising the challenging environment which the Spending Review 2020 relates to, AIRTO nevertheless contends that there are some further considerations for government to address in implementing its plans, including:

  • clearer intent and greater support for the application of increased R&D spend towards the development component, by focusing on More D! and translational work, so as to bring about the quickest possible return on investment, economic benefit and recovery from the COVID pandemic;
  • a broadening out of support for public sector laboratories to access UKRI resources and the exploitation of government-owned intellectual property assets, to include other independent knowledge translators operating at mid-Technology Readiness Levels. This will help to make an additional and rapid impact on the economy if such organisations can be provided with proper resource. The UK must sustain and ensure the capacity of the UK’s industry facing translational capability as well as looking after the science research base and universities. We welcome UKRI’s recent statements concerning the importance of greater diversity and inclusivity across the UK’s innovation ecosystem. Future Spending Reviews should be seen as an opportunity to reinforce the implementation of this vision, from an R&D and innovation perspective.

In its representation to the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review, AIRTO proposed a number of specific initiatives aimed at building capacity and extended capabilities within the IRT sector as an integral part of the actions needed to reach the ‘2.4%’ R&D target and to reap maximum value from the expenditure of public money. Whilst we recognise that in the immediate future the government is not able to fulfil all these recommendations, we are calling for ongoing consideration of our proposals for:

  • enhanced technical support for SMEs;
  • re-capitalisation of IRT not-for-profit organisations;
  • expanded generic applied research programmes;
  • new innovation skills development initiatives.

Read the full representation from AIRTO to the CSR September 2020.

These proposed initiatives will support the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis in the short- and medium-term, and in the longer-term the development of the UK as a Science and Innovation Superpower, with the ensuing benefits for the country’s productivity and prosperity.

The total investment required for the proposals put forward for the CSR is £1.06-1.16bn over five years. This will not only help to drive forward the UK’s entrepreneurial SMEs but it will also facilitate capacity building in the Innovation Research & Technology (IRT) sector to meet the needs of existing and new business demands and to move towards growth, doubling the sector’s total annual turnover from around £7bn to £14bn and its GDP contribution to the UK economy from £34bn to £68bn. The IRT sector will then be able to play its full role in delivery of the UK’s Science and Innovation Superpower ambitions. AIRTO is ready to support the government in the planning and co-ordination of any or all of the initiatives it is proposing in this representation..