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Be bold, commit to greater investment in research and innovation in post-Brexit Britain, say National Academies

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The UK’s National Academies have come together to call for the Government to send a bold, positive message to the nation and to the world that the country will remain a leading global destination for research and innovation.

In a statement issued today (17 November), the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society urge the Chancellor to show this commitment to fund, train, attract and retain the world’s brightest and best in next week’s Autumn Statement (23 November).

Together, the UK National Academies are asking for research and innovation to be put at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy. 

In this time of change, the Academies urge the Government to build on the UK’s strengths as a nation of global researchers and innovators and focus on the three following priorities:

  • Create the workforce of the future, drawing on the world’s brightest and best and giving every UK citizen the opportunity to be part of this
  • Cement the UK’s reputation as a destination to research, innovate and adopt new technologies, including setting a target of 3% of GDP for combined public and private R&D spending
  • Capture the creativity and innovation under way in the UK to improve people’s lives

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“The UK has much to be proud of with an excellent track record of research and entrepreneurship, but we need to send a message to the world that we are committed to building on our strengths to make Britain one of the best places in the world to research and innovate. The government’s industrial strategy must have research and innovation at its very heart, with regulation that supports and encourages the development of new technologies and processes.

“Increasing spending on research and development not only creates a more innovative society, it also sends a signal - the UK is committed to be a nation of innovators, and we need everyone, from first time entrepreneurs to global investors, to have confidence in that commitment.”

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences added:

“Our status as a research powerhouse rests on the shoulders of people from across the UK, and those who have chosen to come and work here. We should celebrate this enviable position, and ensure that the next generation of ambitious thinkers, from Toxteth to Tokyo, choose the UK to make their big discoveries.

“We are urging the Government to send a bold message and build an immigration system that allows the UK to welcome talented people from across the world to join and strengthen our research community.

“People are, and always will be, the greatest asset to our research community and, in times of uncertainty, we need Government to broadcast a clear welcoming message and showcase the opportunities the UK offers.”

Lord Stern of Brentford Kt, FBA, FRS, President of the British Academy said:

“At a time of unprecedented global change, it is vital that we harness and build on the UK’s world-leading research in the humanities and social sciences, science and engineering, and medicine. The proposed creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has the potential to strengthen the impact of our research, by bringing together research and innovation, business and academia; further, it can bring a stronger strategic perspective and voice for the future for research and innovation in the UK.  

“If it is to meet the post-Brexit challenges the UK faces including rekindling productivity growth, fostering an economy that works for all and redefining our relationships with world, the government must be prepared to invest further and draw fully on the expertise and creativity of this community. This is a tried and tested way to improve the well-being, productivity and economic growth of our nation".

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS, President of the Royal Society said:

“I welcome the Prime Minister's personal support for science. However, for our future prosperity and growth, it is both urgent and important to send a strong message that the UK will remain a leader in science and innovation, and a place in which to invest, work and seek collaborators. The UK is one of the best destinations in the world for research, nurturing talent from home and abroad, and one of the leading places to innovate.

“Putting research and innovation at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy will give it the best chance of success in ensuring broad economic prosperity through productivity gains. This will require a bold commitment to invest in research and innovation to build on our many strengths.”

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