Boom in sci­ence spend­ing urged to level up UK re­gions

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Lizzy Bur­den

A TOP econ­o­mist and two may­ors have called on Alok Sharma, the Busi­ness Sec­re­tary, to turbo-charge re­gional sci­ence spend­ing as the post-Covid re­cov­ery be­gins.

Lord Jim O’Neill, the former Trea­sury min­is­ter and ex-Gold­man Sachs chief econ­o­mist, backed a re­port which blamed Bri­tain’s poor pro­duc­tiv­ity growth since 2008 on a fail­ure to sup­port re­search out­side London and the South East.

He signed an open let­ter call­ing for sweep­ing changes, along­side oth­ers in­clud­ing Andy Burn­ham, the Labour Greater Manch­ester mayor, and Andy Street, the Con­ser­va­tive West Mid­lands mayor. The Gov­ern­ment has al­ready pledged to bol­ster re­search and devel­op­ment spend­ing to 2.4pc of GDP by 2027, up from 1.7pc in 2018.

How­ever, the re­port sug­gests Mr Sharma should set an ad­di­tional tar­get of es­tab­lish­ing sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy re­search cen­tres in ev­ery UK re­gion by 2040. It was spon­sored by Brunt­wood SciTech, a joint ven­ture be­tween in­vest­ment com­pany Le­gal & Gen­eral and prop­erty busi­ness Brunt­wood.

It high­lighted Coven­try and War­wick­shire as an ex­am­ple of the dif­fer­ence re­search spend­ing can make, af­ter its for­tunes were trans­formed by ex­per­tise at city uni­ver­si­ties and in­vest­ment from Jaguar Land Rover.

Mr Street said: “In re­cent years, the West Mid­lands has had an in­cred­i­bly strong re­search and devel­op­ment per­for­mance, but nearly all of this in­vest­ment has come from the pri­vate sec­tor.

“We aren’t the only re­gion in this po­si­tion. For a gov­ern­ment that is com­mit­ted to the re­gions and to lev­el­ling up, this is en­tirely un­sat­is­fac­tory and must be ad­dressed.”

Chris Oglesby, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Brunt­wood, said: “We can’t af­ford to lose any more time and risk fall­ing fur­ther be­hind on the global stage.

“The an­swer lies in build­ing on the unique strengths of the world-class aca­demic in­fra­struc­ture that al­ready ex­ists in our cities.

“Bring to­gether all the par­ties needed to make new in­no­va­tion hap­pen and then work col­lab­o­ra­tively – in­clud­ing with other UK cities – to grow the pie rather than fight­ing over it.”

Andy Burn­ham, the mayor of Greater Manch­ester, has joined those call­ing for ma­jor changes

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