Government needs ‘robust plan’ for future research funding

20 Apr 18

The government must create a “robust plan” for future research funding, a group of MPs has said.

The Public Accounts Committee expressed concern that the government does not have a clear strategy to meet its target of increasing investment in research to 2.4% of GDP in 2027.

In 2017, total UK spending on research was 1.68% of GDP - less than Germany and below the EU average of 2.03%, the PAC said. 

Currently, the UK is a net recipient of EU funding for research and development and as such could face a funding reduction following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU - depending on negotiations, the PAC noted.

Between 2007 and 2013 the UK contributed €5.4bn to EU science and received €8.8bn in return.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “It is vital the government delivers value for every pound of public money invested and has a robust plan to secure necessary levels of funding from other sources.

“It is concerning that, having made ambitious promises on research investment for the coming decade the government does not know how those commitments will be met nor at what cost to taxpayers.

“This must be addressed.”

Half of UK research is funded by the private sector, the PAC pointed out. 

Although the government has tried to encourage private sector investment by increasing tax reliefs on research and development from 11% to 12%, there is no guarantee that this will increase funding for research and development from this source, the committee warned.

In November 2017, as part of the government’s industrial strategy, the government committed to spending £7bn on R&D over the five years to 2021-22. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy oversees the majority of government research spending.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “Science, research and innovation is at the heart of our modern industrial strategy and that is why we are investing an additional £7bn in R&D to 2022, the largest ever increase in public R&D funding for 40 years, and why we have committed to investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027.”

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