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expert reaction to the Autumn Budget

The chancellor of the exchequer has laid out the 2017 Autumn budget.


Dr Tim Chatterton ,Senior Research Fellow , Air Quality Management Resource Centre , University of the West of England, said:

“The impact of VED rise for diesel vehicles is likely to be minimal in terms of persuading people not to purchase a new diesel vehicle.  For most diesel vehicles, the costs will be equivalent to less than 5% of a single year’s fuel costs.  As roughly half of all new vehicle purchases are made by companies as opposed to private individuals, perceived per mile costs are still likely influence purchase more than a minimal increase in first year VED”

“It is not clear what the purpose of the tax increase is, whether it is a) primarily to dissuade people from buying diesels – in which case, if successful it will not raise much money for a clean air fund; or b) simply to raise money – in which case it misses a key opportunity to set the first year VED at a level which might significantly reduce the number of heavily polluting diesels entering the national fleet.”


Prof Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says:

“I welcome the Chancellor’s Budget statement today, addressing some of the key issues that will help to secure the UK’s prosperity and productivity in the coming years. In addition to the increased investment in R&D announced earlier this week, I am also pleased that the Enterprise Investment Scheme is to be doubled, alongside a package of measures to boost the availability of long-term finance. This will give real support to growing businesses.

“Enhanced support for emerging technologies such as AI will help to attract and unlock investment in UK innovation.  However, we cannot take advantage of these rapidly growing new areas unless we equip people with the skills to understand and use them. I welcome initiatives to build and promote high-quality apprenticeships and to support the implementation of T-levels which will help to address the skills gap. This along with new funding and incentives to boost mathematics and computer science education in schools and colleges will equip the next generation of engineers with the skills needed to bring value to the economy.”


Prof Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“I was pleased to see the Prime Minister’s commitment earlier this week to supporting the UK’s leading position within global science and innovation.

“The additional £2.3 billion to be invested in 2021/2 and the commitment to increase spending on research and development (R&D) to 2.4% by 2027 builds on recent increases, and  will create a vital launch pad to bring the UK closer to the  long-term target of  3% of GDP.

“This commitment will help to provide a financial magnet in the UK for retaining and attracting R&D talent and investment from around the globe. I look forward to seeing  further details in the Industrial Strategy White Paper about how this investment will support the creation of a wider environment that will allow UK research to continue to flourish.

“Today’s announcement from the Chancellor that the findings of the Patient Capital Review will be implemented and the establishment of a new £2.5 billion fund will help innovative UK firms to start and grow. Supporting these businesses will help to deliver health solutions for patients in the UK and beyond.”


Dr Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice-President, IMED Biotech Unit and Business Development, at AstraZeneca, said:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to invest in a new station in Cambridge, enhancing its connection to other cities critical to life sciences in the UK and supporting both collaboration and mobility of talent. As home to our new global headquarters and strategic R&D centre, Cambridge offers a vibrant ecosystem for cutting-edge innovation and stands to become Europe’s largest life sciences cluster. As we continue to work with our regional partners towards the accelerated delivery of Cambridge South railway station, this new investment is a helpful step for driving growth and excellence in life sciences that contributes significantly to Britain’s global competitiveness.”


Mike Thompson, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Chief Executive, says:

“The life sciences sector is of critical importance to our health and wealth – and today’s Budget reiterates that the Government recognises our industry can be a driving force behind long-term sustainable economic growth, c​reating new jobs, incentivising inward investment and delivering much-needed productivity gains across the UK.

“The strength of our sector and the strength of the NHS are inextricably linked and we welcome the Chancellor’s additional funding for the health service. To meet the Health Secretary’s ambition for UK patients to be at the front of the queue for new treatments, the NHS must have the right resources and the capacity to apply innovation.

“As an industry that invests £11.4m per day in R&D – employing more than 23,000 people in research-intensive roles – we are greatly encouraged by the Budget’s focus on incentivising science and innovation. The Government’s commitment to increase R&D spending as a percentage of GDP and an increase to the R&D tax credit are welcome moves. R&D is a universal driver of productivity and meeting the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy’s target of bringing UK R&D spend in-line with that of our global competitors will be an important strategic goal.

“As we navigate the challenges of leaving the European Union, it is important we make the domestic landscape as attractive as possible. The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy can be a roadmap for Government to leverage the full value of our industry.

Following today’s Budget, we look forward to working with the Government to secure an Industrial Strategy sector deal that seizes the opportunity for UK life sciences to go from strength to strength. These will be investments in the UK’s future and only improve the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business.”


Prof Sir John Holman, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry said:

“We welcome today’s commitment to increase research and development spending to 2.4% of GDP over the next 10 years. What we need now is a roadmap that outlines how we will reach this target.

“In creating this roadmap for spending there must be a balance of funding for research and development. This includes balancing funding across core subjects and interdisciplinary areas, as well as funding for both curiosity-led and challenge based approaches. We support the recent recommendation from the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee to undertake an assessment of the balance of funding across government innovation support initiatives. Understanding and mapping the current balance will be valuable in developing a trajectory for how to best reach the 2.4% target in the future.

“We look forward to the publication of the Industrial Strategy White Paper next week.”

“Research and innovation are key to delivering the vision of a strategy that will improve productivity and increase growth across the country.

“As the Industrial Strategy is implemented, there is an opportunity to commit support to cross-cutting areas of research and innovation that underpin disruptive technologies with the potential to boost growth. For example, research into advanced materials has the potential to contribute to ground-breaking developments in clean growth and healthy ageing – just two of the grand challenge areas that the government has already identified. Sustained, wide-reaching and inclusive engagement with the research and innovation community as the Industrial Strategy is implemented will enable them to play a central role in delivering these technological breakthroughs.”


Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director of CaSE, said:

“It’s great to see the government putting its money on research and innovation as the UK’s competitive edge. Today’s announcement is another step on their way to an ambitious goal – although we should remember that goal will only bring us in line with the average level of R&D investment of other scientific nations.

Such sizeable public investment brings a responsibility to spend it effectively. The new money is to be spent on modes of challenge-led funding that are relatively untested. It will be important to establish mechanisms to ensure these funds are well spent and to grow the UK’s tried and tested research funding mechanisms to meet research priorities as well as political priorities.  After all, the UK needs a thriving research base to generate the stream of ideas to create the products and services of tomorrow.

To reach their target of R&D investment across the economy of 2.4% of GDP, the Government must attract private investment of over £8bn of globally-mobile R&D budgets. To continue to invest here through the uncertainty of Brexit, research-intensive companies are clear that the UK must provide a competitive economy with a healthy research base and immigration and regulation systems that support international R&D.

We look forward to working with Government to ensure the long-term target is met and delivers a competitive edge for the UK and prosperity and wellbeing for society.”


Prof Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:

“This is a budget that backs research and innovation. The substantial additional funding for R&D recognises the importance of research and innovation in driving the economy and securing the UK’s global reputation for excellence in research and development. It also makes clear that the UK is open to the brightest and best research talent from around the world and will strongly support the next generation of home-grown expertise.”

“I look forward to further announcements in the Industrial Strategy White Paper that will set out the detail of how the UK will build on our strengths and continue to support excellent science, research and innovation right across the UK.”


Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, says:

“This budget sends a clear signal that the Government is focused on the UK’s technological future, and the crucial pipeline of skills needed to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the technological revolution.

“Technologies such as machine learning and AI have the potential to improve our lives in many ways, including creating jobs, and the Government has also recognised that to truly take advantage of this potential there is much work to be done to ensure the benefits are shared by all.”


Ed Whiting, Director of Policy and Chief of Staff at Wellcome, said:

“The Government’s commitment to unlock £20 billion to grow innovative companies through the Patient Capital Review and increase investment in science to 2.4% of GDP are a clear sign that they recognise the power of R&D to secure the future prosperity of the UK.

“The plans to streamline the immigration system for international scientists, something that Wellcome has advocated strongly for, will also help ensure that the UK can continue to attract the best talent post-Brexit.

“This range of funding and support for knowledge-intensive businesses, universities and research institutes will help to expand knowledge, develop promising ideas and inventions, and improve people’s lives in the UK and around the world.

“But the question still remains of how the UK and EU will continue to collaborate on research in the future. Clarity over the UK’s future partnership with the EU is urgently needed, and an important first step would be to agree continued UK participation in the Horizon 2020 funding programme.”


Commenting on the announcement of a new “Centre for Data and Ethics and Innovation” Hetan Shah, Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, said:

“The RSS has long been campaigning for the need for a public dialogue around the ethics of using data, we’re pleased to see the Government taking this seriously in today’s Budget. It is important however, that there is clear blue water between the functions of this new body and The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Nuffield Foundation’s Convention on Data Ethics. The best role for this body is to look at where existing regulation needs strengthening, rather than to do the regulation itself.”


Commenting on the diesel tax, Prof. Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), said:

This is, hopefully, the start of the process of making all high-polluting diesels much more expensive to run than less polluting options. Omitting vans is rather disappointing since these tend to to do multiple journeys and therefore contribute more to people’s exposure to locally-generated pollution.”




Declared interests

None received.

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