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Transforming Britain’s R&D performance

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In a report for the Policy Institute, former Universities and Science Minister Lord David Willetts sets out proposals for transforming UK research and development (R&D). Welcoming the government's commitment to increase total national spending on R&D from 1.7 per cent of GDP to at least 2.4 per cent, Willetts outlines how this could be achived through a 12-point plan. 

Key recommendations include:

  • Removing the requirement for universities to submit all eligible researchers to the Research Excellence Framework in order to incentivise practical applied research and cut bureaucracy.
  • Increasing funding to support catapults, technology parks and other non-university institutes, whilst restoring greater freedoms to public research establishments.
  • Immediately investing in key technologies and creating a new technology strategy in government based on expert horizon scanning for new technologies.
  • Boosting Innovate UK’s SMART awards budget by around £300 million a year and requiring one per cent of public procurement budgets for large infrastructure programmes to be used to promote innovation.
  • Better alignment of public bodies to enable new technology companies to access funding schemes more easily, simplifing Research Council grant processes and speeding up how UKRI investments are reviewed and approved.