Ahead of the The Post-Brexit Funding Settlement: Research, Development and Enterprise Summit taking place virtually on 27th and 28th April 2021, we assess the outcomes from the UK R&D Roadmap survey.
In July 2020 the government set out its long-term ambitions for research and development through its R&D Roadmap. The Roadmap works to set a strategic direction for the government’s target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027. As part of this strategy the government also set out its plans for £14.6 billion in R&D spending in 2021 to 2022 in the November 2020 spending review.
The Roadmap has committed to reducing bureaucracy in R&D systems, as well as supporting greater creativity and risk-taking in the upscaling of new programmes. The Roadmap has also led to plans for reforms to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and to the development of a new R&D Place Advisory Group.
Yet central to the 2020 Roadmap, was also a major sector-wide survey consulting on how the R&D system could be enhanced to drive impact, improve funding and support greater global collaboration.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has now announced the findings from the sector. Here are the 5 key takeaways and outcomes from the consultation:
- A New Long-Term Funding Settlement
The survey revealed major demand for a more sustainable and long-term approach to R&D funding which supported greater access for a variety of organisations, as well as calls for diverse channels to gaining funding.
Those responding to the survey called for greater autonomy for researchers, more risk-taking in the funding process and for an assessment of the current quality-related funding model.
- A Clear Strategic Approach
The consultation also revealed the need for a more long-term strategic approach on the development of the UK’s R&D system. There was a call for a greater understanding of the UK’s strategic ambitions and how the sector would address the global challenges of the future. The survey suggests investors and international interest would be attracted to a more long-term and sustainable approach to major research infrastructure and ambitious strategic projects.
The survey reveals a need for the development of a cross-governmental strategic approach with the sector, which focusses on cross-cutting technologies and major long-term research goals for the nation.
- A Diverse and Improved Research and Innovation Culture
The sector consultation also revealed the need for an improved culture across the sector. It was highlighted that the competitive and challenging nature of the sector led to issues of harassment, bullying and mental health risks.
The findings also showed there was a need for the sector to develop from a competitive sector to a collaborative one, which can attract improved idea sharing, innovation and support improved diversity and talent across the sector. The survey revealed that there were still major challenges in attracting diverse talent and ensuring the retention of a high-quality workforce.
- An Emphasis on Collaboration
At all levels the findings reveal a call for a more collaborative R&D system in which there is improved knowledge exchange between industry, HEIs, government, communities and across a range of sectors.
The survey pointed to a need for improved collaboration at an international level with major challenges requiring expertise from all nations and sectors. In particular, the study pointed to the need for more cross-sector clusters and hubs, as well as improved financial incentives for promoting research collaboration. The survey also considered how the formulation of regulation and standards may impact global collaboration.
- The Skills of the Future
The Roadmap survey revealed a major focus on how the skills, training and education needs of R&D can be met in the future. The study showed a demand to ensure that skilled workforces could be drawn upon across all regions in the future and that the skills needs of diverse sectors could be met.
Those responding highlighted the need for a focus on STEM subjects within schools, with calls for an increased emphasis on how the curriculum in schools and universities would meet the workforce demands of the long term.