This week, I have been reflecting on the strength and breadth of CaSE member organisations across the UK.
CaSE represents some of the world’s most revered universities, the most forward-thinking research charities and many of the oldest learned and professional bodies. Another branch of our membership includes some of the globe’s largest privately-owned R&D companies, many of whom are owned abroad and choose to carry out R&D in the UK. As part of our ongoing work in understanding why private enterprise makes the investment decisions it does, we often ask why they chose the UK. Inevitably, the first answer we get is that the strength of the research base is the reason the UK is such an attractive proposition.
The Government’s ambition to make the UK a more research-intensive nation will be heavily reliant on R&D investment from overseas. In 2017, the UK attracted over £5bn of inward investment from abroad, almost 15% of total R&D expenditure. Not only this, but companies headquartered abroad now invest more in R&D in the UK than domestically-owned companies. Unfettered access to the UK’s world-leading research base is what has attractedprivate investment, which is something that is really important to CaSE.
It is important, because it is a new way to talk about a lasting issue. For some politicians and some policymakers, it is often difficult to describe the importance of investing in early-stage, discovery research because economic returns on investment are rarely immediate. Ahead of the next Spending Review, CaSE and other sector leaders are insisting that the Government thinks very carefully about increasing financial support for the research base. This not only means more investment, but proportionate increases in all modes of funding that have enabled the UK to grow its research strengths across all sectors.
The variety in CaSE’s membership represents the variety in the UK’s research and innovation sector. The diverse make up of funding opportunities for different types of organisations, in different disciplines in different locations have allowed the UK to thrive. We want to make sure that the UK becomes a more research-intensive nation but does so by supporting all types of R&D that provide every opportunity for research to flourish.
James Tooze is Policy Officer at the Campaign for Science and Engineering