Technology research spending too low to compete, says CBI
Employers calling for R&D to be 3% of Britain’s GDP Target needed to avoid losing global science race
Britain must Brexit-proof its economy by ramping up research and development spending or risk being left behind in areas such as space tourism and robotics, the CBI has warned.
It will launch a campaign today to urge the government to adopt a target for R&D spending to be 3% of GDP, compared with the current level of just 1.7%. Adopting a target would show foreign investors and academics that the UK can remain a hub for innovation and scientific collaboration in a post-Brexit world, the CBI will argue.
It will say that despite government plans for a new industrial strategy and more spending on innovation, the UK’s position as “world leaders in science and innovation” is at risk.
“Our spending on R&D has stagnated at just 1.7% of GDP, with both public and private sectors under-investing,” the CBI report says.
It warns of a growing challenge from Asian economies, notably China which increased its share of global R&D spending from 2.5% in 1996 to 19.6% in 2013. China also outranked the UK when measuring its R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, with a level of 2% in 2014.
The CBI believes hitting a 3% target by 2025 would be achievable. “Now is the moment for the UK to up its game,” said Felicity Burch, the CBI’s head of innovation and digital.
“We had the Brexit vote last year and article 50 is fast approaching, we need to think seriously about what our economy looks like and how we compete globally.
“We actually have a real opportunity in terms of the new industrial strategy... It’s really clear the government is taking innovation seriously but we need a real vision about the outcomes we want.”
A measurable target would help focus government and business on the need to increase spending, the CBI argues.
It cited evidence of other groups, including the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, arguing for 3% as a level proven to boost growth and jobs. The EU also has a target of 3% of its GDP to be invested in R&D by 2020.
The UK’s spending on R&D has stagnated for years, fluctuating between 1.53% and 1.68% of GDP since 1998.
Figures published last week show R&D spending was £31.6bn in 2015, a rise of £1.2bn on 2014. It was 1.68% of GDP in 2015 compared with 1.66% in 2014.
The CBI’s report says: “Gene editing, space tourism, self-driving vehicles, robotic limbs, floating farms, London to Sydney in four hours. Game-changing innovations like these will shape the course of the next decade.”
“Companies and governments are under pressure to keep up.”