Boom in science spending urged to level up UK regions
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