Vital time to boost R&D investment to drive regional growth: Beckie Hart

For businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber, 2024 is a critical General Election Year regardless of your size or sector. The CBI recognises that driving sustainable investment and long-term growth is the only way to navigate current economic headwinds and global political instability.

Investing in technology and innovation has the power to meet these challenges and effect economic transformation, benefiting business and living standards for all.

Building upon the UK’s reputation for excellence in Research and Development, establishing it as the world leader in this field, has the potential to unleash such growth by boosting productivity, supporting the transition to net zero, helping to lead in the development of AI and mitigating the risks of a future pandemic.

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Historically the UK has lagged behind competitor countries in R&D investment. We currently invest around 2.9 per cent of GDP in R&D, well below the levels invested by countries such as the US, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Beckie Hart is regional director for Yorkshire & Humber at the CBIBeckie Hart is regional director for Yorkshire & Humber at the CBI
Beckie Hart is regional director for Yorkshire & Humber at the CBI

The CBI to this end has joined the whole R&D sector to highlight the importance of R&D for the UK – with a specific call for an ambitious national target for the UK to lead the G7 on R&D intensity by 2030 and beyond.

This should include an increasing focus on leveraging private R&D investment underpinned by public R&D spend – with leadership from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), and HM Treasury.

The CBI estimates that if the ratio of business to public R&D investment were increased to be more in line with key international competitors, meeting this target would require approximately £5bn additional public R&D investment a year by 2030.

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This is an ambitious yet achievable target that recognises the importance of keeping pace with international competitors to ensure the UK continues to attract international business innovation investment – particularly if that additional funding is spend such that it effectively leverages and crowds-in private sector funding more effectively.

R&D is a sector that thrives right here in Yorkshire, we see evidence of this every day. Therefore, the CBI urges policy makers and UK Research and Innovation to build on those regional strengths and to maintain or increase relative budgets dedicated to delivering long-term ambitious regional innovation programmes.

Business innovation investment is also influenced by a broad range of policy factors beyond public R&D spend, including regulation, public procurement of innovation, skills, and trade and investment policy.

It is essential that the future government delivers on these at the same time if the UK is to meet its ambitions to be a leading site for innovation investment.

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Additionally, Universities in Yorkshire & the Humber and across the UK are a cornerstone of our innovation ecosystem. It is critical that the financial sustainability of the UK’s university sector is addressed to maximise the impact of uplifts to public R&D investment.

Creating an ambitious new target for R&D intensity would signal the future government’s commitment to driving forward UK innovation, set a clear direction of travel for the UK, and provide a shared ambition that policymakers, business, and the broader research community can unite around to drive sustainable investment and long-term growth.

Beckie Hart is CBI regional director for Yorkshire and Humber

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