UK Government R&D Roadmap – What? When? How?

August 20, 2020

At the 2020 Budget, back in March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans for a record increase in public investment towards Research and Development in the UK; committing to reaching £22 billion per year in 2024/25, and 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. So how are we going to get there, and what does the “Ro&D” ahead look like?

What?
On 1st July 2020, the UK government published its new policy paper on the UK Research and Development Roadmap, setting out the UK’s vision and ambition for R&D outlined over 60 pages. In short, the roadmap has been devised to support efforts that tackle climate change, develop new medicines, strengthen national security and improve public services in what is to be the aftermath of Brexit and COVID-19.

As experts in the research, development and innovation space, the team at ABGI have summarised the roadmap into the following need-to-know points.

How?
The policy itself seeks to determine a new path that will aid the UK in becoming the R&D powerhouse of the world. The UK Government plan to investigate all areas of innovation to determine how best to increase investment into research that will unlock new discoveries; the need to pursue ‘moonshots’ (ambitious new goals) has been outlined as essential in order to achieve both economic and social progress. The paper continues to suggest that the application of discoveries will similarly be supported financially, by cutting unnecessary bureaucracy in order to improve the efficiency of the ‘research, applied research, innovation, commercialisation and deployment’ process.

The roadmap envisions the attraction, retention and development of talented and diverse teams of academics, researchers and technicians that are essential to delivering the vision. Examples include the extension of work visas post-doctorate, and support for students to transition from studying to early research careers in academia or industry. In addition, support to entrepreneurs and start-ups is to be improved, and methods to increase the flow of capital to enable the efficient scale up of developments are to be prospected.

When?
The R&D roadmap is only the start of conversation. Proposals are currently being mapped out into a comprehensive R&D plan and, over the next few months, there will be engagement with universities, businesses, charities, research funders, research establishments, scientists and researchers at all career stages, entrepreneurs, business leaders and invests, communities, local government organisations, members of the public (have your say here), to determine the best paths to follow.

What about now?
Whilst the roadmap is in its infancy, Sunak put the keys into ignition by announcing at the 2020 Budget that the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) rate will be increased. Similarly, what qualifies as an eligible cost for the R&D tax relief scheme is to be reviewed to reflect the changing reality of R&D and to ensure that the UK’s R&D scheme remains globally competitive.

Also getting the gears into motion is the first round of the Sustainable Innovation Fund (temporary framework); on the 1-29 July 2020 UK registered businesses are invited to apply for a share of £55 million to be used on projects with a focus on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19, with all projects to have a positive impact on climate change and/or environmental sustainability. Find out more about this competition here

To the team at ABGI, it is unsurprising that science and technology are being called upon to fuel a vibrant post-Brexit economy that now lies within the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both of these are going to form major events in British history, and as a result, more innovation is expected to emerge as we adapt to a new ‘normal’ – one which is envisioned to be greener, safer and healthier than ever before. By starting the conversation, we begin to carve the road to more sustainable, and scientifically strong, society.

By Eloise Bevan, Innovation Funding Consultant at ABGI-UK

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce