Business, charities, researchers and universities unite to appeal to Tory leadership hopefuls

In an unprecedented joint statement, a coalition representing some of the UK’s leading businesses, minds, universities and charities is calling on the next Prime Minister to put research and innovation at the heart of their plan for UK prosperity, post-Brexit.

The group, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, is urging the next Conservative leader to deliver a concrete and overdue vision for UK R&D which builds upon existing pledges, to boost jobs and deliver vital medical, technological and social breakthroughs.

The joint statement emphasises the importance of the government’s commitment to spend 2.4% of national wealth on R&D by 2027, in order to address the challenges faced by the nation and to support the knowledge-intensive industries of the future.   

The government’s target to increase investment in R&D is a strong focus of the Academy’s policy work, working with engineering businesses to help inform the development of the government’s roadmap to 2.4%. The Academy recently published a series of explainers, Increasing R&D investment: business perspectives, outlining the factors that influence businesses’ decisions to invest in R&D in the UK.

Joint statement in full

The next leader of the Conservative Party should commit to ensuring the UK remains a world leader in research and innovation.

We ask the Conservative leadership contenders to pledge their support for the R&D commitments necessary to ensure the UK remains globally competitive, delivering a strong and prosperous future for our economy and society post-Brexit.

The evidence is clear: investment in R&D drives productivity and raises living standards, benefitting people and communities across the whole of the UK. From the great challenges of our time, including cancer, climate change, food security and caring for an ageing society, to the creation of high-skilled jobs, new businesses, and the innovations that power our NHS – UK research and innovation has real-life impact.

It is vital that the next government sends a clear message to domestic and international investors that the UK is open for business and ready to embrace the opportunities of a changing world. Globally, our competitors such as Germany, Israel, South Korea and Japan already invest more than 3% of their GDP in R&D.

The next Prime Minister must set out a long-term plan for research and innovation investment up to 2030. This should build on the Government target to boost overall R&D investment initially to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 – and the longer-term aim of 3% of GDP. But words and targets will not be enough, the UK needs a coherent long-term plan to build our position as the global hub for new world-leading technologies, to draw on our strengths across multiple disciplines, to attract talent from around the world and to promote British entrepreneurship.

Action is overdue. The next leader of the Conservative Party will have the opportunity to be the Prime Minister who builds on the bold vision for UK R&D, putting us on a solid path to delivering it.

The statement has been signed by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Association of Medical Research Charities, the British Academy, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Cancer Research UK, the Confederation for British Industry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Russell Group and Universities UK.

Notes for Editors

Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession. 

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information please contact: Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 0207 766 0636; email: jane.sutton@raeng.org.uk