The new Government elected in May 2015 has an opportunity to build on our strengths and help make the UK the best place in the world to do research and innovation according to a statement published by the National Academies today (10 February). Building a stronger future sets out what the next Government will need to do to ensure a strong research and innovation base that helps people in the UK lead healthier, fuller and better lives.
The National Academies urge the next Government to adopt the following priorities in order to make the UK the location of choice for world class research, development and innovation:
• Place research and innovation at the heart of plans for long-term economic growth.
• Secure prosperity by strengthening public investment in research and innovation.
• Meet demand for research skills through a flexible and diverse workforce.
• Strengthen policy by embedding expert advice across Government.
The statement calls on the next Government to create an environment that attracts more industrial and charitable investment in research and innovation, in addition to that from Government. It also emphasises the need for more teachers with specialist subject knowledge at all stages of education.
Lord Stern of Brentford Kt, FBA, FRS, President of the British Academy, said:
“Research drives innovation and innovation drives growth and a healthy society and democracy. The UK already produces some of the most cutting edge research in the world – 15.9% of the world’s most highly cited articles come from the UK and it ranks 2nd for the quality of its scientific institutions. However, we cannot take this leadership in research for granted. Top quality research and innovation can help us tackle some of the challenges that the UK faces as a society – improving health, producing more sustainable energy and bringing stronger education and skills across the whole workforce. The National Academies will be looking for the new Government to place its commitment to research, through investment and informed policies, at the heart of its programme for the UK.”
Speaking about the need for a flexible and diverse workforce, Professor Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:
“We need high quality skills across all disciplines to meet the demand from the UK research and innovation base and the wider economy. As well as growing the UK skills base, we must compete for the high quality global research and student talent available by having the right policies in place to encourage immigration that will benefit the nation. International research networks are growing in strength – we need to think in terms of being part of the ‘brain circulation’ and not focus on the ‘brain drain”
The statement points to the need for Government policies that support our education system, increase the numbers of teachers with specialist subject knowledge at all stages of education and reinstate a balance between research and teaching activities in higher education.
Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said:
“Research and innovation is important for tackling challenges that face the UK and world today, including current issues such as ebola, economic recovery and volcanic eruptions disrupting air travel. As policymakers become increasingly dependent on complex evidence, it becomes ever more important that they have access to world-leading scientific experts and advice. Whether they are considering national security or how we pay for the care of older people, Government needs easy and transparent routes to this advice.”
Professor Sir John Tooke PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:
“UK research is world leading. The innovation it drives is crucial for economic recovery and is the foundation of a knowledge economy. Long term investment which grows to match international competitors will benefit all of society. Support for medical science, for example, offers NHS patients the prospect of new and more effective treatments. The next Government must commit to making the UK the best place in the world to undertake such work to realise the clear social and economic gains it generates.”