House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: Balance and effectiveness of research and innovation spending.
In this report, the Science and Technology Committee calls for research excellence to be spread across the UK, and makes recommendations for research funding and support.
Beyond the Golden Triangle: The Committee believes that research excellence needs to be encouraged outside of the ‘golden triangle’ of concentrated research funding (between London, Oxford and Cambridge) and recommends that UKRI significantly increase the size of the Strength In Places Fund to address this issue.
Research and development funding: The Government has set a target for research and development (R&D) funding to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027 and reiterated this commitment in the recent Spending Round.
The Committee welcomes this target and recommends that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) publish their roadmaps setting out plans to achieve it as soon as possible, and no later than the end of 2019.
ONS data suggests that R&D spending of 1.69% in 2017 in the UK was an increase from 1.67% the previous year. In terms of international comparison, using UNESCO data these levels are similar to Canada and Norway, but lower than France (2.3%), Germany (2.9%) and behind table leaders such as South Korea and Israel (both 4.2%).
Plans contained in the roadmaps should show an integrated approach between UKRI and BEIS that suitably reflects the strengths and prospects of the UK economy These plans should be developed beyond 2027 to ensure travel towards the longer-term 3% target.
Quality-Related Funding: The flat profile of quality-related (QR) funding in recent years suggests that it has not been prioritised in funding decisions, although the announcement of a £45 million increase in QR funding by Research England in July 2019 indicates that there may be a change in this focus.
The Committee recommends that a focus on QR funding is maintained in future funding decisions, and review whether additional support should be provided for smaller but potentially fast-growing institutions.
Dual Support system: The Committee recommends that UKRI extend its analysis of ‘balance’ beyond the dual support system, looking at other dimensions of balance such as the regional concentration of funding, the balance between research and innovation, and the balance between capital and current spending, as addressed in this Report.