Fighting for Our Fair Share of R&D Research Funding

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Fighting for Our Fair Share of R&D Research Funding


Byline: DYLAN JONES EVANS

With the UK moving towards an unsatisfactory Brexit agreement, many are wondering what the future will be for the UK economy after we leave the European Union.

With much of the UK Government's attention focused on negotiations with Europe, there is concern that very little is being done to safeguard the nation's economy.

Given this, it was perhaps surprising to see a recent publication which highlighted an increased commitment to UK research and development (R&D) investment.

The so-called Allocations Booklet sets out the Government's commitment to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027. To reach this target, extra investment of PS7bn in R&D has been announced for 2017-22, which raises public investment in R&D to PS12.5bn per annum by 2022 and is, according to the UK Government, the biggest ever increase in public funding of R&D. Part of this additional funding will be met from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) which includes money to enhance the UK's position as a world leader in science and innovation and drive productivity and growth.

As this is a UK-administered fund and not devolved, the question is whether Wales will benefit directly from it.

Our minimum target - assuming Wales gets 5% of central government funding according to the Barnett formula - should be around PS625m of R&D funding being allocated to our economy in 2022. Many think this is highly unlikely, despite the best efforts of the Welsh Government and our academic institutions, unless there is a major step-change in our researchers' ability to capture bigger research grants and to influence the UK Government's innovation priorities.

Take, for example, the fact that a significant proportion of NPIF funding is specific mission-oriented funding aiming to build on the UK's competitive advantage in key areas of research and business through so-called Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges.

One of these more recent funding rounds allocated PS68m to support research and innovation in robotics and artificial intelligence, with the aim of developing robotic solutions to increase safety in industries such as off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining, increasing productivity and opening up new cross-disciplinary opportunities. …

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