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UK government failing to maximize value of technology R&D projects

innovation
(Image credit: Image Credit: TeroVesalainen / Pixabay)

The UK Government’s plan to have the public sector spend more on research and development (R&D) is on course for failure, and “strategic decisions” are needed if to right the ship.

This is the conclusion of a new report published by the Science and Technology Select Committee with the House of Lords, entitled "Catapults: bridging the gap between research and industry".

According to the report, the Government’s plan was to have the UK public sector spend 2.4 percent of GDP on research and development by 2027, by increasing spending to approximately $31 billion per year by 2024/25. However, to hit the 2.4 percent target, private sector organizations will need to invest “substantially greater” sums.

As per a write-up from Computer Weekly, not-for-profit organizations known as “catapults” are tasked with attracting private sector R&D investment, but they face multiple roadblocks that are limiting their potential contribution, the report claims.

To tackle these roadblocks, the government needs to make “strategic decisions”, such as strengthening their relationships with universities, establishing clear KPIs and providing long-term certainty for the catapults.

Rules that govern innovation funding also need reforms, to allow more flexibility for both the catapults and their partners.

“These rules currently act as barriers to collaboration between Catapults and universities, and often place too much risk on industry in transformative R&D projects,” the report suggests.

As it stands, the report concludes, the Government does not have a strategic plan to deliver on its R&D ambitions, which should include clear criteria for how it selects technologies and sectors to receive further support.