UK priorities for science, research and innovation

research and innovation
© Jaswant Bhopal |

The UK is focusing on international partnerships and ground-breaking sector deals in order to remain a global leader in science. Here, we find out about the work of Chris Skidmore MP

The UK Government has launched a modern Industrial Strategy as part of a long-term plan to transform from the economy and build a Britain “fit for the future.”

The strategy identifies five foundations of productivity and measures to release them:

Ideas: Raising total research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 and investing £725 million in new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes to capture the value of innovation.

People: Establish a world-leading technical education system; invest £406 million in maths, digital and technical education to help address the shortage in STEM skills; and create a new National Retraining Scheme.

Infrastructure: Increase the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31 billion; support electric vehicles through £400 million for charging infrastructure; and provide over £1 billion to boost digital infrastructure, including £176 million for 5G.

Business Environment: Launch Sector Deals for life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence (AI) and the automotive sector to boost productivity; drive over £20 billion of investment in innovation and high potential business; and launch a review of how to best support the growth of SMEs.

Places: Agree on Local Industrial Strategies; create a £1.7 billion Transforming Cities fund to improve intra-city transport; and provide £42 million to pilot a Teacher Development Premium.

International partnerships to drive growth

In May, Chris Skidmore MP, the UK’s Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, launched a new International Research & Innovation Strategy, underlining a commitment to worldwide partnerships as part of the Industrial Strategy’s ambition to ensure the UK remains a world leader in emerging technologies.

The strategy was unveiled at the EUREKA Global Innovation Summit, the flagship event of the UK chairmanship of EUREKA, an intergovernmental body that supports international cooperation in research, development and innovation, where more than 1,700 business people and innovators from 65 countries met to exchange ideas and develop new ways of working to encourage global economic growth.

Skidmore announced a £4 million funding competition for UK participation in EUREKA projects that aim to speed up the delivery of innovations to market and to boost networking between innovators and business.

The calls for competitions include:

GlobalStars (£1 million): The GlobalStars funding competition between Singapore, the Netherlands and the UK is focused on medical technology, smart mobility and logistics and advanced manufacturing.

Smart Manufacturing Cluster (£2 million): Applicants have been invited to submit R&D and innovation project proposals in the area of advanced manufacturing applications and technologies.

AI and Quantum (£1 million): Collaboration between Austria, Belgium, Canada, Israel, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, South Korea, Turkey and the UK.

Skidmore said: “Science and innovation have no borders and this new strategy reflects our aspiration to see the UK draw systemically on research and innovation collaboration to build its economic growth while tackling global challenges. We’ve already backed this ambition by committing £7 billion over five years by 2022.”

The International Research & Innovation Strategy will be delivered through the UK Science & Innovation Network, which has around 110 officers in over 40 countries and territories around the world. (1)

Life sciences

Another key focus of the Industrial Strategy is the UK’s life sciences sector, which contributes £70 billion to the economy and employs more than 240,000 scientists and staff.

Life sciences received one of the first Sector Deals in December 2017, which included commitments to the UK by 25 global organisations, including a major investment by healthcare firm MSD to develop a world-leading life sciences discovery research facility and headquarters in the UK, supporting 950 jobs.

In December 2018, a second life sciences Sector Deal was published, which included over £1.3 billion in inward investment from the sector.

A cornerstone of the deal is a major study, backed by up to £79 million of government funding, that will collect data from five million healthy volunteers to develop new diagnostics tests using AI.

Sir John Bell, the UK’s Life Sciences Champion, says: “We all know someone who we love who has suffered the effects of a devastating disease. If we can detect illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease before symptoms present, we can open doors to transform treatment and save lives.

“I am honoured to be leading the Accelerating Detection of Disease project, which will bring together doctors, industry experts and leading charities, including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“It is this kind of revolutionary work which will help people get the right treatment before they get ill and it is my ambition that this will give more of us more years of healthy life.” (2)



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