Budget 2021: Laura Kuenssberg's analyses Rishi Sunak's plans
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The autumn budget, announced last week, saw some key pledges from the Government to boost science spending. Research and development (R&D) is set to rise substantially to £20billion annually by 2024/25, and £22billion by 2026/27. And the overall public envelope for R&D will increase by just over £5billion over the next three years, with increases right across UK Government departments and funding bodies.
Mr Sunak also announced that the Government will reach a research intensity of 2.4 percent of GDP to be targeted towards R&D by 2027.
That is almost double the amount of GDP currently targetted towards R&D.
James Tooze, from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), welcomed these announcements.
He told Express.co.uk that spending pledges like these are a big step forward for British science.
He said: “It’s one of the biggest and quickest increases in research and innovation funding that we’ve seen in a very long time, you’d have to go a very long way back to see an increase in public budgets that match a magnitude of these increases.
“I think now what is very important is that the government can set out how it is going to deploy that money and restore confidence within the private sector to say that we are serious about R&D and it will play a really significant role in making the UK look like an attractive place for big and small businesses alike to invest in R&D here.
“A step change in the significance of the increase [in R&D] is a moment to be positive about the future.”
But Mr Tooze said that while work is not done yet, it is certainly putting Britain on the right path.
He said: “Hopefully we will be able to continue to increase our research intensity to get to a point where we can firmly say the UK is a science superpower.
“The thing that we’ve long said about the UK is that it punches above its weight with regards to the sort of excellence of science and research in this country.”
Mr Tooze said that Britain should be able to build on that foundation.
The fact that far more funds will be channelled into science, research and development could see Britian really excel in this area in the future.
Mr Tooze said: “Despite the small amount of the world’s population we have produced some really excellent scientific input which is a really good basis to build from and if we continue to strengthen and deepen that, it will help us get to that science superpower goal.”
And Mr Tooze was not the only one to share that sentiment.
Dr Daniel Rathbone, also from CaSE, said that spending review was a “positive outcome for UK science and engineering.”
He added: “The Chancellor has shown that he gets the powerful arguments being made by the sector that a high skill, innovative economy is the ‘only route’ to securing prosperity and well-being for the entire UK. He has rightly placed research and innovation at the heart of his plan for growth.”
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These praises must be promising for Boris Johnson, who made a Brexit pledge to make Britain a science superpower.
The Prime Minister had also made a Brexit pledge to boost R&D spending, which Mr Sunak has announced he will be doing.
Dr Rathbone said that it looks likely that Mr Johnson will stick to his commitment.
He said: “Today’s review sets out a series of steps towards the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s aspiration for the UK to become a ‘science superpower’.
“This includes confirming increases to funding for core research, a significant increase in R&D budgets for some UK Government departments.”
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