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 they can bring.

Current activity

Increasing R&D investment: business perspectives

The UK government has committed to increasing investment in R&D in the UK from the current 1.7% of GDP to 2.4% by 2027, with a longer-term goal of 3%.

This is an ambitious target that will require further public investment. But it will also need businesses to do more: that they invest in more R&D, conduct more R&D, and do more with that R&D.

To identify the factors that influence business decisions on R&D investment, the Academy has spoken to chief technology officers, chief engineers and, in some cases, chief executives responsible for these decisions in engineering companies across a range of sectors, sizes and locations. The findings of these interviews are presented here in a series of explainers.

Increasing R&D investment: business perspectives


Investing in UK R&D

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)

Fresh case for investment in research and innovation 

The National Academies are working together to generate new evidence to ensure that future decisions on investment in research and innovation are informed by the best available analysis. The Academies have recognised the need to better understand the benefits that research and innovation bring to the UK, the distribution of those benefits across the country and its population, and how best to measure these. Rather than simply refining the case for more investment, the Academies want to understand the benefits of this investment in order to spend smarter. To that end, a Steering Group of experts, chaired by Lord David Willetts, has been assembled to oversee research commissions to create new and compelling evidence to support future investment. Two evidence syntheses, to be completed by summer 2018, on measuring the benefits of research and innovation and the conditions needed to translate research and drive innovation have been commissioned.

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.