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UK will fail tech ‘superpower’ goals without R&D changes, warns Lords

UK science superpower
Image credit: Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock

The UK must make significant changes to its R&D strategy if it is to achieve the government’s goal of becoming a science and tech “superpower”, according to a cross-party House of Lords committee.

The science and technology committee, made up of 14 members of the House of Lords, published its recommendations for the government to meet the targets set last year to secure the UK’s status as a tech superpower by 2030.

Key recommendations in the report include clearly defining the UK’s science and technology strategy, repairing international relationships, and setting out specific reforms to public funding for innovation, with a focus on R&D.

The committee’s report warned that due to a “lack of an implementation plan” for funding and support for research and development, the potential for high growth in UK tech would not be fulfilled.

Next PM called to uphold R&D commitments

While the committee strongly supports the government’s R&D support plan, it has suggested there has been minimal focus to commit to increased spending. The report therefore called upon the next administration to “maintain the commitment to R&D”.

This follows earlier calls from leading tech figures for the government to ramp up the implementation of improved R&D tax credits.

The committee chair, Baroness Brown, showed some optimism for the UK’s tech potential, pointing out that “even with significantly lower spending than comparable countries, the UK’s excellent science base punches above its weight”.

Brown, however, said that “science policy has been far from perfect”, pointing to the “plethora” of strategies with “little follow-through”.

Brown criticised the “numerous bodies and organisations with unclear or apparently overlapping responsibilities”, including the recently established National Science and Technology Council and the Office for Science and Technology Strategy.

The peers also mentioned the damaged reputation of the UK on the international stage, criticising the failure to cooperate with Europe.

“The UK cannot be a science superpower in isolation; relationships must be repaired,” Brown said.