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UK R&D spending too focused on south and below target

Carolyn Fairbairn

Carolyn Fairbairn: unveiling report (pic: Terry Murden)

Spending on research and development in Britain is below the global average and is too focused on the south and east of England, according to a new report.

The UK currently spends 1.7% of GDP on R&D compared to the target of 2.4% which is the OECD average and the longer term aim of 3%.

CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will be launching the report today at the opening of Reckitt Benckiser’s £105 million Science and Innovation Centre in Hull — the biggest single investment in the household goods company’s history.

The new report shines a light on the businesses across the UK who are undertaking pioneering research, development and innovation in areas from aerospace to agriculture.

Yet ‘Don’t wait, innovate’ finds that not enough of this R&D is currently happening across the UK.

Just three regions account for 52% of UK R&D spend (London, South East & East of England) and just five of the UK’s 40 sub-regions are investing more than 3% of GDP. A greater focus on accelerating R&D investment in the worst performing regions could provide a £7.3bn boost to UK R&D spend, bringing the 2.4% target for R&D spend within grasp.

‘Don’t wait, innovate’ argues that the UK must capture the benefits that flow from improving innovation-led growth across the country – by creating a regional network of Catapult Quarters across the UK.  

It says these would encourage industry to collaborate regionally on the key challenges that face our country – such as clean growth, healthy ageing, the future of mobility and AI – with targeted and practical support.

Felicity Burch, CBI innovation & digital director, said: “For centuries, the UK has been a home for global innovation.  Scientific progress has not only transformed our economy, it’s been the single biggest driver of productivity and helped tackle some of our society’s biggest challenges.

“But with the continued political uncertainty and our competitors investing more in innovation, the next Government must re-launch the UK as one of the best places in the world to imagine, invest and invent.  This report lays out concrete initiatives that can kickstart public and private investment across our country.”



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