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Make research and innovation the engine of our economy, business and university leaders urge


At the end of a week in which the announcement of a new vaccine brought fresh hope for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of senior business and university leaders – including Prof Julia Buckingham CBE, Brunel University London's Vice-Chancellor and President – has called upon the UK government to put research and development (R&D) at the heart of a refreshed industrial strategy.

In a report published today, the taskforce convened by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) warns that the UK has long underinvested in R&D, even though harnessing the power of research and innovation is critical to the future success of businesses and the country.

This means that change and collective action will be needed in order for the government to deliver the vision it set out in its R&D Roadmap, launched this July, for a more research-intensive, innovation-led economy.

Introducing the report, 'Research to Recovery: Delivering an R&D-driven Industrial Strategy', Sam Laidlaw, Chair of NCUB and Chair of the Taskforce, said that the opportunities from R&D are significant and, if achieved, could have a transformational effect on the UK economy.

"This report argues fundamentally that to succeed there is a need to prioritise efforts to seize strategic commercial opportunities, create synergies in the system, strengthen the enablers of the research and innovation system, and attract global investment," he added.

The report's recommendations include:

  • a refresh of the Industrial Strategy to make research and innovation the engine of our economy
  • the creation of new 'Innovation Collaboration Zones' to stretch the benefits of research and innovation to all parts of the UK, aiding the government's 'levelling up' agenda
  • an ambitious talent strategy to create opportunities for all
  • a Global Collaboration Fund to encourage universities and businesses to pool their strengths to attract inward investment.

In a letter published in The Times, Prof Buckingham and her fellow taskforce members, including senior leaders of Rolls-Royce, BT and GSK, stress that to meet the government's target to double total R&D spending in the UK by 2027, businesses will need to spend £17.5 billion more on research than they do today – and that the result will be a lifeline for the economic recovery and long-term prosperity of the UK.

Brunel had additional input to the report's development, thanks to the University's Chief Business and Innovation Officer, Liz Flint, contributing to the taskforce's work as an advisor to the panel.

Explore the NCUB's report in full, or read The Times's article and letter from the NCUB taskforce.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821