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expert reaction to the launch of the UK government’s new Innovation Strategy and the R&D People and Culture Strategy

The Governments’ New Innovation Strategy and R&D People and Culture Strategy have been published today.


Prof Alice Gast FREng, President, Imperial College London, said:

“The government’s innovation agenda sets a welcome direction of travel. The support for R&D, bridging the growth stage funding gap, and better visas for innovators are important advances. Now we need investment and delivery. Our great universities and scientists are ready to play their part.

“There is no either/or between levelling up and global innovation. We can, and must, do both. Collaboration between sectors and regions will get us there, as will global partnerships.”


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

On the Innovation Strategy:

“The publishing of today’s Innovation Strategy shows that the potential of research and innovation to super-charge the UK economy, bringing prosperity to every part of the UK and transforming lives, is being taken seriously at the highest levels of government. We welcome the steps being taken to encourage business investment in innovation, many of which have been previously called for by CaSE.

“The evidence shows one of the best ways government can give confidence to businesses to invest in research and innovation is to set out a clear timeline and plan for how it will reach its target of investing £22bn in R&D by 2024/25. The upcoming Spending Review is a perfect opportunity for the government to set out its long-term plan for investment.

“To ensure success, BEIS will need to work hard to ensure that the whole of Whitehall buys into the strategy. We look forward to working with all areas of government to secure its ambitious goals for UK research and innovation.”

On the R&D People and Culture strategy:

“We strongly welcome the government’s new R&D People and Culture strategy – to meet the target of 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D, people will be crucial and a large expansion in the R&D workforce will be needed. This is also a great opportunity for the government and the research sector to work together to create a more open, diverse and inclusive research workforce – and the strategy takes some welcome first steps in that direction.

“The strategy aims for people from all backgrounds to be inspired into careers in research and innovation. This begins with inspiring all young people to see that a career in STEM can be for them. CaSE’s Inspiring Innovation report sets out steps, such as the importance of providing teachers with high-quality continuing professional development, that the UK government and devolved administrations need to take to ensure that all young people receive high-quality science education and careers guidance.”


Prof Paul Stewart FMedSci, Vice-President, Clinical, Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), said:

“In recent weeks, the government has published a number of strategies detailing how research and innovation, and specifically the life sciences, can drive economic recovery and boost the health and wealth of the nation. Today, this is supplemented by an R&D People and Culture Strategy which sets the need for a ‘a more inclusive, dynamic, productive and sustainable UK R&D sector in which a diversity of people and ideas can thrive’.

“I welcome these strategies as a positive signal that the government is serious about its ambition to be a science superpower. The next test of this commitment will come at this year’s Spending Review where I hope the government will continue in this positive vein. It is particularly welcome today to see the government recognise that in order to achieve these grand ambitions, we must build capacity and improve career paths and routes to attract tomorrow’s researchers, but also support and show we value the talented people who work in these sectors so that we can retain the broadest range of both domestic and international talent to work in the UK.

“At the Academy, we know that research can’t flourish unless the people behind it are well-supported, feel included and are able to work in an attractive environment where their ideas and contributions are valued. Our work to support those embarking upon careers in medical research puts people at its heart, ensuring we recognise and reward those who lead a research culture that is open to, and supportive for, all.

“Our immersive Future Leaders in Innovation Entrepreneurship and Research (FLIER) programme exemplifies this approach, bringing together people from the NHS, academia, industry and policy to give them the skills, networks and support that they will need to grow and lead research fit for the future. In our policy work, we are exploring the changes necessary to ensure a sustainable health research eco-system including for the people working in it, and we will shortly be launching a major project on this topic. Meanwhile, the UK Young Academy, which we have been developing with the other UK Academies, will be an important step in enabling early career researchers and innovators to influence the issues which affect them. We’re delighted the government has agreed to fund this and look forward to announcing more details soon.

“I am pleased to see a focus in the R&D People and Culture Strategy on developing new approaches to involving public and patient voices in research. The best research is done with people, not to them. Involving broad perspectives from inception, working with the public to define questions and how we answer them will ultimately deliver research that benefits everyone in our society.

“There is of course much more for the Academy and the wider sector to do, and the R&D People and Culture Strategy provides a useful blueprint for some of the most pressing actions required. It’s now down to all of us working in research to build on this strategy and existing best practice to ensure that research careers really are attractive and accessible to the broadest range of people. Getting this right at a national level is a pre-condition to our global competitiveness and ‘superpower’ status.

“On the part of the government, these strategic aspirations are welcome steps and I hope they will be followed by action. Some of the necessary actions can and must be achieved within existing funding settlements, but others will require new funding. That is why the government must back this strategic intent and use the next Spending Review to set out how it will reach the commitment to invest £22 billion in R&D by 2024/25; adequate resources will be critical to ensure that the ambitions set out in these documents can be achieved.”


Prof Sir Adrian Smith FRS, President, Royal Society, said:

“Innovation will be key to the UK’s success and today’s Innovation Strategy is welcome. The government is committed to increasing investment in science to £22 billion a year by 2024/5 and we look forward to seeing more detail in the Spending Review. But that is only part of the story in reaching 2.4% of GDP, with private sector and overseas investment also crucial.

“We face many major challenges, such as recovering from the pandemic and tackling climate change. Research and innovation are central to the solutions. The success of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 have shown the value of decades of investment in UK science. Now we must build on that. Meaningful investment in both research and innovation will also help to transform local economies and support growth right across the UK.

“To provide businesses with what they need to deliver, we must ensure long-term, stable funding to deliver the ideas that can be developed. We also need to ensure that the UK trains, retains and attracts the best talent and provides those people with the best environment to thrive. Today’s strategy is a good starting point, and we look forward to seeing it delivered in the coming years. We will be looking to, among other things, the Spending Review, changes to immigration rules and the ways we develop our own home-grown scientific talent.

“Today’s R&D People and Culture Strategy can also play a significant part in helping secure the UK’s position as a global leader in research. As the Minister for Science says, it takes a brilliant and diverse mix of people from all walks of life to build the world-class research and innovation teams we have in the UK. We have to work hard to achieve that, and we can do better. The strategy can help drive that change.”


Dr Sandra Knapp, President, Linnean Society of London, said:

“The government’s vision to turn the UK into a ‘science superpower’ is welcomed, although it doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch with a shiny new agency. We already have first-class, world-leading scientific institutions, and it’s by building on this long-standing scientific tradition – across many disciplines – that we will maintain the UK’s global position in science.

“While its attention is focused on these new endeavours, the government has simultaneously acted to put the future of some of the UK’s world-leading scientific organisations at risk. Having set unaffordable rent rises for the charities at Burlington House, an internationally-recognised hub of discovery and scientific interaction in the UK, the government is needlessly putting hundreds of years of scientific work and integration at risk.

“In focusing solely on STEM specialist schools, the government is also being short-sighted. Focus on putting the arts and culture into STEM (known as STEAM) is crucial; we’ve seen this help to engage people from all ages and backgrounds in science in this country, as well as benefit our understanding and care of the natural world around us. We’ll be missing a trick if we don’t also focus on developing imagination and creativity alongside the more traditional STEM knowledge base and skills. These skills are essential for a strong science base going forwards.”


Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said:

“If we are to meet the ambition for the UK to be a science superpower we have to unlock the potential – and support the growth – of the most innovative sectors, including life sciences.

“Our sector invests more in UK research and development than any other, so it’s great to see today’s Innovation Strategy include a focus on cutting-edge technologies like genomics, which have huge potential to help patients, create jobs and boost the economy.

“Combined with the recent life sciences vision, this strategy sets out an exciting road ahead.”


Prof Sir Jim McDonald FREng, President, Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), said:

“The Innovation Strategy is a timely and powerful publication. With businesses responsible for the majority of innovation and R&D done in the UK it is welcome, and somewhat refreshing, to have a strategy so focused on the objective of boosting innovation by private sector firms.

“With pressures on public finances, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, and growing global competition, supporting businesses to manage the risks associated with R&D and encourage innovation is a way of securing our future growth and reaping the returns from our investment in research.

“A multitude of factors influence businesses’ ability to undertake innovation, and responsibility for these is spread across the whole of the government, from skills to export and beyond. The Strategy recognises this. Its successful delivery will rely on a whole-government approach to implementation, and this must also include action to ensure the long-term sustainability of the research base.

“I am pleased to see Innovate UK feature strongly and be identified as crucial to increasing innovation in the UK. I hope this recognition will be matched with a long-called-for uplift in budget, and multi-year commitment to funding, so that the highly accomplished new CEO can realise the agency’s full potential. Ambitions for public procurement and to unlock the potential of pension funds could be transformative, though as recent history proves, challenging to deliver.

“Now government must engage with the businesses and entrepreneurs who can make its innovation ambitions a reality and ensure that government spending decisions are equal to its vision for an innovation-led low-carbon economy that delivers benefits across the country.”


Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:

“Innovation adds value, creating new products, services and ways of working. It is an incredibly powerful tool in tackling the world’s biggest challenges in areas such as health and climate change, and in building an inclusive economy.

“Innovation thrives on diversity. Our research and innovation system must be open to the most diverse range of talents and experiences and must catalyse the movement of people between sectors and roles, bringing them together in new ways to fuel creativity.

“UKRI will work with others to take down barriers and dissolve siloes, ensuring the work we support continues to enrich lives and communities in the UK and around the globe.”


Steve Bates, CEO, BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“The Innovation Strategy is right to put life sciences at the heart of the UK’s economic future as we can develop world-leading products and services from our significant strengths in engineering biology, bioinformatics and genomics. The government’s ambition to build science superpower industries of the future in transformational life science technologies is one we share.”



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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