Government pledges extra £2bn for innovation

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to invest an extra £2 billion on science and technology research and development.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference on November 21 (Monday), Ms May (pictured) stated that the Government is “ambitious for Britain to become the global go-to-place for scientists, innovators and tech investors”.

This came after the CBI had already called on the Government to offer more support to businesses to invest in innovation.

It had pushed the Government to pledge a long-term target of three per cent of public and private spending on R&D in order to make the UK an “innovation powerhouse”. The CBI described the UK as “a follower rather than a leader” in government support for innovation, including grants.

Research from the CBI revealed that 70 per cent of UK businesses planned to increase or maintain innovation spending in the hopes of driving business growth, gaining a competitive edge and raising productivity. Only seven per cent said they planned to reduce spending on innovation.

Last year, British businesses invested a total of £21bn in innovation. However, British businesses only rated the UK as 10th globally for innovation. The CBI said that while the UK had “world-class attributes”, it didn’t yet “match ambitions”.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The UK will need to work hard to become the front-runner in global innovation, creating a pioneering economic role for itself in the world that drives prosperity in every corner of the UK.

“Innovation is the nucleus of future economic and social development, so it’s encouraging that seven out of 10 firms will keep up – or even raise – their spending on new technologies and work practices to grow their business.

“As we prepare to depart the EU, this shows that firms are rolling up their sleeves and looking to make the best of Brexit,” she added.

“Spending on innovation generates jobs and economic growth across the country, offering solutions to the challenges we face today and in the years ahead, from improving healthcare and mobile technology to a new generation of autonomous vehicles.

“While the UK has many innovation strengths to build on, businesses are worried that the country is too much of a follower in the global economy, with the lack of access to technical skills a grave concern for ambitious firms.”

Ms Fairbairn concluded: “This Autumn Statement comes at a real crunch point to support our inventors, makers and designers, so the Chancellor must make the most of the tools at his disposal. This needs to be underpinned by a new industrial strategy, which builds on the UK’s sectoral and regional strengths.”