The 2016 Autumn Statement provided an extra £2 billion a year for the science budget by the end of the Spending Review period, including funding for an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. In 2017, the Government committed to “meet the current OECD average for investment in R&D—2.4% of GDP—within ten years, with a longer-term goal of 3%”.
The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, in January 2017, included proposals for an ‘Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’ and envisaged sectors making the case for ‘sector deals’. The Government has since announced the first investments from the fund, including the Faraday Challenge for battery development focusing on electric vehicle applications.
The Green Paper also highlighted a Government review of practices of universities’ Technology Transfer Offices; an independent Review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) by David Connell; a possible expansion of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) or of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships; the “importance of place”, with “increasing our focus on commercialisation and later stage development … likely to increase the opportunities for catch-up in more parts of the country”; a “review of government and research council laboratories and their potential to drive local economic growth”.
More recently, the Government announced plans for a ‘Knowledge Exchange Framework’ to compare universities’ engagement with businesses; a third wave of ‘Science and Innovation Audits’ to map local research, innovation, and infrastructure strengths; and allocations from a ‘Connecting Capability Fund’.
UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) will be operational from April 2018. It will bring together bodies that are currently separately responsible for research and innovation spending.
The Committee would welcome written submissions, ideally by Monday 30 October, on:
- The coherence and links between the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the ‘sector deals’;
- The model adopted by the Faraday Challenge and its suitability for future investments in other sectors under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund;
- The rationale and coherence for the distribution of funding:
- between the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (and its individual ISCF schemes) and the rest of the Science budget;
- between the various initiatives to financially support innovation and commercialisation of research;
- between the two arms of the ‘dual support’ system—funding via the research councils and funding via Research England;
- between innovation and research.
- The balance between different parts of the country in Government funding of research/innovation, the effectiveness of such place-based financial support, and how planned place-based funding might affect that balance in future;
- What further measures the Government should take to use its spending and facilities to strengthen innovation, research and associated ‘place’-based growth.
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