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That’s the way to do it

The news that China is set to increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, brings into stark contrast the announcements, or lack of them, in this week’s UK Budget.

The Chinese government is set to increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, as it aims to boost next-generation artificial intelligence, quantum information, brain science, semiconductors, genetic research and biotechnology, clinical medicine and health, and deep space, deep sea and polar exploration.

The government also wants to establish more national laboratories to research quantum information and artificial intelligence.

It’s also looking to make it easier for domestic companies to go public and to help foreign-funded companies set up R&D centres in China.

While the UK Budget recognised the potential of the UK’s high-growth, innovative technology companies alongside the importance of additional government investment in the green industrial revolution some have questioned its ambition and scale.

According to Prof Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE): “There was no provision for the UK’s agreed participation in Horizon Europe, expected to cost around £2bn per annum, no specific measures to alleviate COVID pressure on UKRI’s budget, or support for research charities. Meeting these costs from the existing science budget would have an impact across the UK’s science and research activity.”

Consultations on R&D tax credits and on unlocking pension funds to invest in R&D and innovation were welcomed as was the support for small businesses navigating the visa system for the first time – but are these developments sufficient in scale to address the problems we face here in the UK?

The pandemic and, although we might want to, don’t forget Brexit, have constituted a massive shock to the UK economy and the question for many is did this week’s Budget really deliver the vision and the necessary funding that the UK needs?

Author
Neil Tyler

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