techUK’s Head of Public Affairs, Tom Morrison-Bell, told the influential Science & Technology Committee in the Commons that the Government should use the forthcoming Budget to set out a roadmap for meeting its target to spend 2.4% of GDP on R&D.
The Committee, chaired by former minister Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, is holding an inquiry into the how the science budget should work with the Government’s broader industrial strategy to ensure the UK continues to be a world leader in both private and public sector R&D. Speaking alongside a distinguished panel, including Cambridge University’s Prof David Connell, and Innovate UK CEO, Dr Ruth McKernan, Tom stressed that the UK must do all it can to give some certainty to businesses amid the current uncertainty arising from Brexit. Showing leadership by setting out to UK tech how the Government intends to meet its 2.4% target by 2027 is one way of achieving this.
The attractiveness of the UK’s R&D regime has been a key factor in both the development of world-leading UK tech companies, such as ARM, and securing significant investment from the world’s most innovative tech companies. With the Brexit clock counting down, Tom also stressed the need for the UK to remain as internationally competitive as possible, especially given the relatively footloose nature of many digital and tech firms.
Other issues Tom stressed to the Committee included:
Boosting digitisation across UK businesses
Digitisation in one of the few short-term levers the Government has for tackling the UK’s chronic productivity problem. According to the European Commission’s 2017 European Digital Progress Report, the UK is ranked 15 out of 28 EU member states when it comes to of integration of digital technology across businesses. As such, Tom urged the Treasury to consider demand-side initiatives to help with the uptake of productivity enhancing digital technologies for businesses in all sectors.
Tech companies benefit from the range of R&D initiatives
From R&D tax credits, to the Enterprise Investment Scheme, tech companies of all sizes benefit from the UK’s R&D regime. This is a critical component of the UK’s international competitiveness and must be retained, if not enhanced. The UK benefits substantially from the sorts of measures which encourage companies to do their cutting-edge innovation here.
The importance of international capital to UK tech
Around a third of venture capital invested in UK startups between 2009-2015 came from the European Investment Fund. Tom highlighted how important it is that the UK remains a part of the EIF, even though it will be required to leave the European Investment Bank.
This work is part of techUK’s broader work on the Government’s Industrial Strategy.