The Chancellor has certainly set out to enhance further the UK’s position as a world leader in research and innovation, a key driver of economic growth. He has committed an additional £4.7 billion in the period 2018-2021, through the National Productivity Investment Fund and notes that at the end of the period this will be an increase of around 20% in government R&D spending. He is placing collaboration with business and the science base at the heart of his plans to be delivered through a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Modelled on the USA’s DARPA programme the focus will clearly lie on breakthrough technologies. Together with additional funding for innovation, applied science and research, this is without doubt very positive news, but one tempered by the ongoing uncertainty over what Brexit will mean to the UK.
Universities UK analysis recently reported that 14.2% of all income from research grants and contracts for the year 2014-2015, more than £836 million, came from EU sources. Many in the academic community will want to see how far the newly announced funding goes to temper the potential loss of this important funding stream, and the opportunities it brings to collaborate with other internationally leading research groups in Europe. So, overall good news, but as ever the devil will be in the detail.