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expert reaction to R&D announcements in the Autumn Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has presented his Autumn Budget and Spending Review to Parliament.


Tom Grinyer, Chief Executive, Institute of Physics, said:

“Increasing R&D investment to £20bn by 2024/25 is the right thing to do and the Chancellor appears to have  sent a clear signal he backs British science and innovation to drive growth.

“Physics innovators stand ready to play their part in harnessing the benefits of the new industrial era, but they need certainty to turbocharge innovation, and the government must now recommit to its longer-term R&D target of £22bn by 2026/27.

“The chancellor is also right to focus on education and skills as the foundation for our success, and we’re ready to work with the government on this agenda. But any solution must also address the desperate shortage of physics teachers – who will be crucial in building the scientifically trained, innovative and diverse workforce which can deliver his growth agenda. It is therefore disappointing that the increase in schools funding appears to represent a real-terms cut.”


Hetan Shah, Chief Executive of the British Academy, said: 

“Today’s fiscal statement arrives at a time of intense pressure on the public finances, so it is reassuring to see the government doubling down on its commitment to invest £20billion in research and development by 2024/25. We welcome this farsighted approach. Research and development is a key driver of long-term prosperity, health and security.  

“We are keen to hear more about the government’s new vision for Investment Zones and we welcome the commitment to leveraging our research strength in our universities. There is enormous potential to be found in collaborations between businesses and universities, including in sectors – such as the creative industries and finance – which draw heavily on skills, research and development in the Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts (SHAPE). It will be vital to structure the zones in a way that does not merely displace economic activity but generates new wealth in a sustainable way. 

“Finally, we echo the Chancellor’s emphasis on the value of people and skills. As our flagship Skills programme has shown, the challenges we face – energy, cost-of-living, climate change – can only be solved with a broad range of expertise. The need to invest in skills, talent and research across the disciplinary spectrum has never been more urgent, and we will continue to make this case to government.”


Dr Mark Downs CBiol FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said:

“Science and innovation are key to providing solutions for many global and national challenges and the Royal Society of Biology  welcomes the continued commitment to R&D funding set out in today’s autumn statement leading to £20bn of investment by 2024/25.

To maximise the economic, environmental, health and societal benefit of investment in science there must be an integrated approach bringing together all stakeholders. RSB looks forward to playing its part working with ministers, officials and our broad membership to ensure a vibrant and well-funded environment for life sciences that realises its full potential.”


Steve Bates OBE, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“Just weeks after official government statistics showed SMEs are investing £16 billion more than previously thought in R&D to create the UK’s innovation-based economy of the future, the Chancellor and Prime Minister are threatening to pull the carpet out from under their feet by almost halving the value of R&D tax reliefs. This unsophisticated measure, which hasn’t yet been consulted on, will not achieve the Chancellor’s stated aim to cut down on fraud. Stopping the “no win no fee” tax consultants clogging up HMRC with bogus claims would have had an immediate impact.

“The unintended consequences of this proposal for the UK life science sector would, if legislated for, be hugely significant. Our world-leading science base holds great promise for improving the health and wealth of the nation, as the rapid development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed, the translation of that research into societal benefit via innovative SMEs can’t be put at risk.

“We are providing expert analysis of the implications of this proposed move to HM Treasury officials and ministers this afternoon and we look forward to meetings on the detail in the coming days.”


Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, The President of the Royal Academy of Engineering,  said:

“It was noticeable how many of the growth priorities announced by the Chancellor will rely on engineering skills and innovation, particularly regarding secure, clean and affordable energy, and new infrastructure. These will be crucial to reinvigorating economic prosperity in all regions of the country.

“More than eight million people work in the nation’s engineering economy and the profession is generating up to an estimated £645bn gross value added to the UK’s economy annually – equivalent to 32% of the country’s economic output.

“We must grow and nurture the right talent base and provide more people from all backgrounds with the right engineering and technical skills if the government’s stated ambitions are to be achieved.”


Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, , said:

“In the context of the tough decisions that were made today, protection of the entire research budget is a welcome outcome for UK R&D and innovation. Continued, and increasing, investment from government remains vital to economic growth across the UK.

“Strengthening innovation capacity across the entire country will ensure that the benefits from investment in research are shared more evenly across society. The emphasis of leveraging local research strengths through investment zones offers potential to do this.

“While the government continues working towards association to Horizon Europe, we need to continue to give confidence to researchers that the UK remains a great place for them to bring their talents and build their careers.”


Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, The Science and Technology Committee Chair, said:

“It is very welcome that the Chancellor has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to invest £20 billion a year in research and development by 2024–25. I am pleased the Government continues to recognise that R&D is the long-term engine of growth and productivity, and crucial to the UK’s future prosperity. The decision is a vote of confidence in UK science and innovation and should bolster our world-class institutions.”

“It will be good news for the nuclear sector that the Government is taking forward the Sizewell C power plant. We will continue to scrutinise how the public sector and industry will deliver the UK’s nuclear power ambitions, as part of our ongoing inquiry.”


Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said: 

“I welcome the decision by the Chancellor and Prime Minister to ringfence and protect the science budget by maintaining the commitment to invest £20billion in research and development by 2024/25.

“In these challenging economic times, it is heartening to see that Government has listened to calls from the sector and placed medical and health research at the heart of its economic plans. An investment in biomedical and health research is crucial for health and economic growth across the whole of the UK and around the world.

“UK biomedical and health research has played, and continues to play, a critical role in the world recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and is vital in addressing further threats to our health and economic security. This is in addition to tackling urgent pressures including mental health, cancer and heart disease, and growing health inequalities.

“Medical research is an essential driver of health and a route to growth. It is key to achieving the Prime Minister’s priorities of economic stability and the UK’s global standing as a true science superpower. It is also an important catalyst for quality, innovation and improved patient care in our NHS and is responsible for economic returns to the country to the tune of 25p per pound investment, each year, forever. 

“As with all areas of the economy, there are challenges ahead for biomedical and health research. Inflation will continue to put pressure on budgets in real terms, and we must protect collaborations between UK researchers and partners globally, including through Horizon Europe. Nevertheless, today’s statement provides the sector with much needed reassurance, and I look forward to working with this Government to ensure that this investment delivers benefit to people and the economy.”


Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell group, said:

“The Chancellor and the PM have highlighted the important role of research and innovation in delivering growth. The government’s recommitment to grow investment in R&D is a clear signal of intent. It is a huge, and well-deserved, vote of confidence, underlining the potential of an ideas-driven economy to boost growth, create high value jobs and crowd-in other investments in skills and infrastructure.

“Innovation clusters are growing around each of our universities, drawing on their talent and the UK’s excellence in research – from advanced semiconductors in Cardiff to new digital technologies for the creative industries in York. We welcome that the new planned investment zones will now focus around universities to maximise their impact. The UK faces big challenges in energy security and to deliver climate-friendly solutions for our net zero ambitions, and today’s announcements will support our researchers and academics to ensure the UK can remain not just a science superpower but an economic one too.”


Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, UK Research and Innovation chief executive, said:

“In these challenging times, it is hugely welcome that the Government has chosen to maintain its commitment to increasing investment in research and innovation to £20bn by 2024-25, signalling a clear commitment to backing world-class UK R&D.

“Investing in research and innovation fuels economic growth, affordable public services, and high quality job creation across the UK. It is an investment in our future, tackling urgent priorities in energy security, environmental sustainability and global health. 

“As set out in our five-year strategy, UKRI is building a strong portfolio of investments, supporting the talented people, places, infrastructures and ideas needed to foster world-class research and innovation that provides opportunities and benefits all.”


Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said:

“In the face of severe economic challenges, today’s Autumn Statement backs science, technology and innovation as a central pillar for increasing productivity and economic growth. In turn, this can deliver jobs, investment and benefits for people across the UK. 

“Upholding the pledged £20bn for research and innovation offers much-needed certainty that global talent and businesses need to build their futures in the UK.  While it will be crucial to see the underlying detail, reforming regulation to drive innovation, promoting research clusters around UK universities and institutional investment in start-ups, should help nurture skilled jobs and emerging industries in all nations and regions of the UK.

“Science can increase productivity through new knowledge and processes, but it is a long-term endeavour. Innovations that saved lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, and clean technologies that will ensure our energy independence and limit the worst effects of climate change, come from basic research breakthroughs made decades ago. Supporting scientific discovery alongside innovation will be key to our longer-term success.

“Science is also a global endeavour that draws on the talents and ingenuity of an international cohort of researchers and collaborators – not least our partners in the EU. While there are welcome hints of progress in discussions over the Northern Ireland protocol, securing rapid and pragmatic association to Horizon Europe remains the best outcome for R&D in the UK and the EU.”


Nicola Perrin MBE, CEO of the Association of Medical Research charities, said:

“The Government’s continued support for life sciences in the UK is a huge relief to medical charities. We know that, with sustained investment, research is one of the key areas where the UK can and does excel, and this commitment will help deliver health benefits that the patients of both today and tomorrow desperately need.”


Prof Liam Smeeth, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“Given the current economic conditions, I think most people understand the budget constraints facing the UK government. Given this, the clear intent to protect spending on research and development is welcomed as a wise strategic move. Investing in research and development translates into long term sustainable growth and into improvements in peoples’ lives both in the UK and globally.“


Sir Paul Nurse FRS FMedSci HonFREng, Director, Francis Crick Institute, said:

“Very good, particularly in the present circumstances.”


Dr Daniel Rathbone, Assistant Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:

“Today’s Autumn Statement keeps R&D at the heart of the UK’s future. In the Chancellor’s own words, cutting R&D budgets would have been “a profound mistake” and we welcome the protection of the £20bn investment by 2024/25. In challenging economic times, stability in R&D investment is more vital than ever – today’s announcement will help R&D power the growth and opportunity that will improve lives and livelihoods of people across the UK.

“We look forward to working with the government as they put public R&D investment to the best possible use. This includes building an R&D tax credit system that can further support private investment in R&D, particularly by innovative small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). Today’s announcements on tax credits could make the system less generous for SMEs, and this could work against the Chancellor’s ambitions for the sector.

“We also welcome the focus on supporting knowledge-intensive clusters across the UK as part of levelling-up – a key plank of the recommendations in our report ‘The Power of Place’.”



Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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