The government have released details of their Research and Development Roadmap for the UK.
Sir Paul Nurse FRS FMedSci, Director, The Francis Crick Institute, said:
“The recognition by the government that science has a crucial role in the success of the UK is to be warmly welcomed, as is the importance of participation in EU research programmes and the need for the UK to be open to scientific talent from around the world.
“For this to come to fruition, there needs to be a concerted government effort to change its rhetoric to be more welcoming, to fully embrace the future and think less about the past, and to engage the many young people and scientists who were overwhelmingly against Brexit and are essential for the future of our country.
“Many of us from the scientific community would be very keen to work with the government to deliver this.”
Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said:
“The ambition for Britain to be a science superpower is exactly the direction we need to take as we leave the EU and emerge from the pandemic.
“The life sciences sector invests more than any other in UK research. That’s why it is critical that these plans are delivered in partnership with our companies if we are to reach the ambitious target of spending 2.4 per cent of GDP on R&D.”
Prof Sir David Cannadine, President, The British Academy, said:
“With this new Roadmap, the Government reaffirms its commitment to the UK’s world-leading research and development sector – and not a moment too soon. Research and innovation – in the SHAPE disciplines (social sciences, humanities and the arts) and in STEM – will be vital for navigating our way out of the health, economic and social crises brought on by COVID-19, and will be of paramount importance as we seek to rebuild a better society and tackle the key challenges of the 21st century.
“We support the Roadmap’s core objective to further the health, prosperity and national security of the UK. We particularly share the government’s ambitions to achieve net zero carbon emissions, close the productivity gap and embrace the transformative potential of new technologies to improve the quality of life in this country and overseas. The emphasis on discovery research is also welcome, though we must remember it is not only about ground-breaking discoveries but about allowing researchers to explore new ideas, including those with benefits that are not easily quantifiable. In SHAPE disciplines research and innovation often leads to invaluable economic, psychological or historical insights which are of great benefit to society and to individuals. Retaining breadth and versatility of funding sources to support such research remains essential to enabling the sector to flourish.
“To make these ambitions a reality and make full use of any new investments, we must ensure that we build the appropriate capacity of researchers and management and support resources, prioritising equality, diversity and inclusion. We welcome the opportunity to explore further how the proposed Office for Talent can support the sector and the UK to remain an attractive place for research talent from around the globe.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure that the promised increased investment in research is carefully coordinated and used to deliver benefits in an effective and joined up way.”
Prof Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President, The Academy of Medical Sciences, said:
“This R&D Roadmap provides welcome recognition of the critical role of research and innovation in the UK’s future and our global recovery from COVID-19.
“The UK’s track record of innovation has never been more important. It’s UK research that identified the first drug to improve survival for COVID-19: a cheap and widely available steroid. Now, our ability to develop new treatments, test vaccines and understand the wider impacts of the pandemic will all rely on research.
“What’s more, investing in medical research will improve society beyond COVID-19 by addressing health inequalities, helping patients, and creating highly skilled jobs across the country. Every pound invested today in medical research pays back 25p to the UK economy every year, forever.
“I’m pleased to see recognition that our future success depends on supporting the people behind the science. The establishment of the Office for Talent and extension of post-PhD visas sends a welcome signal that the UK is open to researchers from around the world. Alongside attracting researchers from overseas, we must also make sure that research is an accessible and welcoming career to home-grown talent from all sectors of our society.
“Realising the ambitions set out in this document will require partnership. That means collaboration across government, but also with the NHS, medical research charities, the private sector and with local structures such as the life sciences clusters. These partnerships will be essential to turn our research activity into health and wealth for the whole country. Beyond our own borders, it will also mean close collaboration with our partners in Europe and across the globe.
“Today’s announcement is a huge boost to the UK’s economy and R&D capacity but more importantly has enormous potential to help patients across the UK and beyond.”
Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Biology (RSB), said:
“We welcome the announcement today of the new R&D Roadmap – it is clear the government recognises the value of our scientific community, and the role their research plays in building our future.
“The UK is a world leader in bioscience and it is essential we continue to support and nurture our excellence in research, development and innovation to ensure the UK continues to play a leading role in tackling the global challenges we face, from the current pandemic to climate change. The RSB welcomes the government’s ambition announced today and will seek to play an active role in helping develop the Roadmap.
“The commitment to developing and growing talent is especially welcome. Technicians, research scientists, teachers, communicators and many others are at the heart of our success. Ensuring movement of talented individuals between sectors, UK regions and globally remains key. The proposals outlined are a very encouraging start.”
Prof Lord Martin Rees FRS FREng FMedSci, Astronomer Royal, former president of the Royal Society and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge, said:
“Let’s hope that the welcome aspirations in this document are transmuted into substance. But we have to overcome handicaps induced by recent government policies. Brexit and its associated rhetoric made the UK seem less welcoming to top talent from abroad. And the increasingly pervasive audit culture has rendered university careers less attractive.”
Prof Bart de Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, University College London (UCL), said:
“This new Roadmap for research is very welcome, particularly as we have long lagged behind other countries in terms of our expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP.
“There are few more pressing global challenges than that of dementia, and we cannot afford to lose momentum in our race to find the treatments that people so desperately need. To retain the UK’s position at the forefront of dementia research, it’s crucial that we can continue to attract the best talent from across the world, and that we have the funds and infrastructure to drive innovation and translate discoveries into treatments.
“European funding streams such as Horizon Europe and the European Research Council have been a vital source of funding for dementia researchers. The government’s commitment to establishing equivalent alternative sources if we can no longer access these post-Brexit is a vital step towards mitigating the impact of losing this major funding source.
“We look forward to working with the new Innovation Expert Group to ensure that dementia research remains the priority it must be if we are to avoid the catastrophic effects of this illness on the health and economy of our nation.”
Aisling Burnand, CEO, Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), said:
“Medical research is vital not just for what it produces and its impact on people’s lives, but as part of the rich tapestry of life sciences which keeps the UK as a global leader. The government’s recognition of the need to invest in UK R&D is encouraging, particularly the support promised for infrastructure and to nurture and attract talent. This will be invaluable to the UK in the coming years, but support is needed now if we are to retain the current research base on which to build it.
“Following on from the announcement last week to ensure our universities are properly funded, it is becoming clear that protecting and developing the UK’s capacity for research is on the government’s agenda. But despite this, although we note that the government has recognised the importance of charity funding, it remains opaque as to how these announcements will help ease the urgent need for support.
“The plight currently faced by charitable medical research remains real and present. We look forward to having the opportunity to help secure the contribution of charities to medical research in the UK and as part of that we continue to recommend a Life Sciences Charity Partnership Fund to mitigate the impact on the sector.”
Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:
“Research and innovation are national strengths, central to our well-being, our economy, and our prosperity. The government’s R&D Roadmap emphasises this importance, sets out a clear ambition and recognises the vital role UK Research and Innovation will play in unlocking its full potential.
“UKRI welcomes the continued commitment to a record increase in public investment in R&D to £22bn a year by 2024/25. This investment will allow us to build, with others, an inclusive knowledge economy across the UK, a system we are all part of and proud of, which we can all contribute to and benefit from. The Roadmap underlines the importance of people, collaboration and culture to the success of our system.
“UKRI’s purpose is to draw together and catalyse our strengths. To realise the opportunity set out in the R&D Roadmap, UKRI will work with our partners and stakeholders, drawing together our strengths and catalysing synergies. We will actively engage a broad range of voices and experiences from right across the country.
“Together, we can develop a dynamic, world-class R&D system to tackle the biggest national and global challenges and increase productivity across the UK, creating benefits for us all.”
Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said:
“Maintaining the UK’s position as a scientific leader is essential to our long term success as a nation and will be crucial to rebuilding jobs and the economy as we recover from the pandemic. The R&D Roadmap sets a vision for UK science that is forward and outward looking. With its focus on investment, talent – whoever they are and wherever they are from – and international collaboration, it can provide a basis for confidence in the future.
“The UK’s success has been built on attracting the best talent from all over the world to come and work with our own home grown researchers. We must maintain that ability and new visa routes and the Office for Talent are welcome steps to achieve this. Our participation in EU research programmes has benefited everyone and it is good to see the government’s renewed commitment to continuing that fruitful association.
“With top research institutes, universities and companies spread across the UK, investment in science can help bring greater prosperity to all parts of the UK. And to keep innovation flowing, you need basic research, so the funding for infrastructure and universities hit hard by the pandemic are also welcome.”
Prof Fiona Watt FRS FMedSci, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, said:
“There is a lot to like about the R&D Roadmap. Highlights for me include reversing the decline in funding for long-term, fundamental research, a focus on workforce diversity, and bridging the gap between invention and application. All of these are ingredients for world class medical research.”
Prof Karen Holford FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee, said:
“This is unquestionably a time of uncertainty and challenge for research and innovation in the UK, yet we are also faced with a great opportunity to build back better with R&D at the heart of the economy. The publication of the R&D Roadmap confirms the government’s ambition to make that a reality. We are looking forward to working with the full breadth of the community and being part of the conversation that will follow. Investing in R&D is investing in the future.
“We are a community of many parts – from the researchers in our universities pushing the boundaries of knowledge, the start-ups and entrepreneurs embracing risk, the innovators and businesses that are powered by R&D, to the institutions providing expertise and facilities. But working in collaboration with government we can be greater than the sum of our parts and deliver even more for the economy and society. I am particularly encouraged by the ambition to work across the devolved administrations and key stakeholders, the opportunity to maintain the positive collaborative behaviours emerging as a result of COVID-19 and the recognition of equality, diversity and inclusion as a critical aspect of research culture.”
Beth Thompson, Head of Policy (UK&EU), Wellcome Trust, said:
“This R&D Roadmap provides the vision needed to match the government’s commitment to increased investment in UK science. People and their ideas are at the heart of research, and we welcome steps to attract and retain talent.
“Wellcome’s recent study on research culture revealed that less than a third of scientists feel secure pursuing a research career, with many experiencing long hours and aggressive working conditions. This Roadmap takes an important step forward in recognising the need to create a more honest, supportive and creative research culture, and committing to action, alongside funders and research institutions.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the critical role of research and its impact on lives and economies. But it’s also a stark reminder that knowledge and discovery do not stop at borders, and global health challenges require joint solutions. We’re pleased to see the government embracing a global role for the UK, and its plans to continue the fruitful collaboration with Europe through full participation in Horizon Europe. These actions will strengthen UK science and our ability to improve the lives of people in this country, and around the world.
“Such an ambitious vision can only be achieved in partnership, and we’re excited to take up this challenge alongside the government and rest of the sector.”
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