The UK has a world-leading research base that provides an excellent source of new ideas and discoveries. Through innovation, these discoveries can result in advances in our economy, social and cultural wellbeing and health.

The Academy works to ensure sustained investment in engineering research and innovation by demonstrating the societal and economic benefits of engineering research and innovation.

Current activity

Investing in UK R&D

There is broad consensus across the political spectrum to increase total investment in UK research and development (R&D). The Government has committed to meet a target of 2.4% of GDP invested in UK R&D within ten years, and a longer-term goal of 3%.

The UK National Academies have produced a document mapping the current R&D investment landscape in the UK. Here, we outline why the 3% target is important for the UK and factors that should be considered to deliver it.

Investing in UK R&D

In addition, we have also produced an overview of some of the structures by which the UK government allocates public funding for R&D in the UK.

How does the UK government invest in R&D? (422.82 KB)

The National Academies are also working together to generate new evidence to ensure that future decisions on investment in research and innovation are informed by the best available analysis. With this project we aim to develop a better understanding of the ways in which research and innovation in the UK generates social and economic benefits, and the distribution of those benefits. The analysis will be commissioned in winter 2017 by an expert steering group, chaired by Lord David Willetts.

Industrial strategy

In April 2017 the report Engineering an economy that works for all was published. The report represents a collaboration of the 38 professional engineering organisations, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, in response to the government's industrial strategy Green Paper.

Industrial strategy

The report calls for the government’s industrial strategy to embody an ambitious and bold long-term vision that harnesses the UK’s international reputation for engineering excellence and forges a new global identity for Britain as a top destination for inward investment and global talent.

Research and innovation runs throughout the report, with a particular focus in Pillar 1: Investing in science, research and innovation and Pillar 4: Supporting businesses to start and grow. 

Investing in innovation

In September 2015 the Academy published the report Investing in Innovation. At a time of severe pressures on public finance and growing global competition, the Academy’s report set out the case for investing in innovation to secure the UK's future growth.

Investing in Innovation (795.52 KB)

Engineering for a successful nation

In March 2015, the Academy and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) published an independent report on the economic impact of engineering in the UK. The report, Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK, highlights the remarkable contribution of engineering to the nation's economy and the everyday lives of UK citizens.

Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK (3.03 MB)

Engineering for a successful nation (2.34 MB)

Profession called to action on securing the future of engineering

The report estimates that engineering-related sectors contributed at least £280 billion in gross value added (GVA) in 2011, equivalent to 20% of the UK's total GVA. Engineering-related sectors exported goods and services valued at around £239 billion in 2011, some 48% of the total value of exports for that year.

The report also flags up the importance of engineering research to key sectors including aerospace, pharmaceuticals, software and computing and highlights the fact that sectors with high concentrations of graduate engineers report high levels of innovation activity and productivity.