The UK national Academies – the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society – hosted breakfast roundtable events at this year’s party conferences focused on how the research, innovation and business communities can work with government to deliver growth and prosperity for the UK.
Atttended by Fellows and grant holders from each Academy, alongside Parliamentarians and representatives from companies, industry organisations, and charitable funders, the events considered ways to meet cross party ambitions to invest 3%+ of GDP invested in UK research and development (R&D). This follows a call made by the Academies for the government to signal the UK’s ambition to compete internationally by setting a target of 3% of GDP for combined public and private R&D spending.
Speaking on behalf of the Academies at the Conservative party conference event, Richard Maudslay CBE FREng discussed current levels of public and private investment in R&D. Attendees, including Jo Johnson MP, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, heard how the UK must prioritise people, funding, and regional development, and address current international perceptions of the UK to ensure that our research and innovation capabilities continue to match and exceed those of our global collaborators and competitors. This was widely agreed to be a vital part of the industrial strategy as the nation moves to leave the European Union.
Dr Rob Oldfield, a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow and member of the Enterprise Hub, shared his experiences of creating a spin-out company. Salsa Sound Ltd developed from an EU research project on broadcasting at Salford University and provides technology to automatically mix and enhance the sound of live sport for TV broadcasts. Dr Oldfield said the university’s ‘industrial collaboration zones’, set up to build closer links between academia and industry, were critical to Salsa Sound’s success.
Attendees agreed that better partnerships and increasing collaboration between academia and industry would enhance UK research and innovation. Increased investment in R&D – as announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement – was welcomed by all, but it was acknowledged that the research and innovation community must demonstrate – particularly to HM Treasury – that it can effectively manage and spend increased funding. Public engagement was also felt to be critical to explaining why greater investment here was required to bring real benefit to society.
Professor Graeme Reid, who chaired the events, has written a blog post reflecting on the discussions, which can be read on the Royal Society website.