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Welcome to our May 2019 R&D Society Newsletter.
Well, by now we expected to be out of the EU but the saga continues. Most CEOs are used to dealing with uncertainty of course (that’s what they get paid for), but uncertainty has consequences – it results in a lack of strong investment decisions or at best minimal investment to keep options open. So at this time it is perhaps worth pondering on the strategic impact of the changes taking place around us and how the UK can accelerate economic growth when decisions on Brexit are finally made. To that end the impact of what has been called the ‘digital transformation’ on manufacturing and the consequence for future skills become key issues for policy decisions. Enter the Industrial Strategy please.
We hope you enjoy reading this month’s R&D news & views and as usual we welcome your feedback.
Read the whole of the news letter here
Dyson to Move Global Headquarters from the UK to Singapore
On Jan 22, Dyson Ltd, announced that it is going to relocate its global headquarters from the UK to Singapore. The company argues that the decision reflects the shift in its markets but others have speculated that the decision might also be motivated by frustrations over Brexit and potential taxation benefits.
Moving its headquarters affects a small number of staff. Although in recent years the company has expanded its R&D about, notably in Singapore, it employs around 3,500 staff in the UK, 50% of whom are scientists and engineers and still appears committed to a strong presence in the country, with a recent announcement to establish a recent centre to support the development of electric cars as well as major investments in collaboration with UK academic institutes.
The company has been a major success story for the UK with total business growing to £3.5B in 2017.
A positive view of the future for UK high-value manufacturing
In a keynote speech at the opening of McLaren’s new production facility in Rotherham, Professor Keith Ridgway (a past RDS event speaker and founder of the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre - AMRC ) gave an upbeat assessment for UK high value manufacturing sector. He said that the work at AMRC with firms like McLaren, Boeing and Rolls-Royce demonstrated the significant impact that can happen when industry, translational research and governments collaborate. He cited the opportunity through growth in use of composites and new materials as well as the transition to the changing nature of production (robotics, automation and artificial intelligence/data analytics). In the case of McLaren all of these ingredients are well blended. Research shows that a 10% reduction in vehicle mass improves fuel consumption by 7%, and every litre of fuel saved reduces CO2 emissions by 2.6kg. There are also important lessons for the government’s Industrial Strategy. He believes that the partnership between industry, government and research could develop processes that significantly reduce the cost of using these advanced materials in vehicle structures, this would not only benefit the car industry, but other industrial sectors such as wind energy, sporting goods and aerospace. With a Brexit deal lurching towards what might be an end-game, more and more firms may choose to bring manufacturing back onshore like McLaren, as they seek to get closer to their supply chains and the research partners who can insulate them against the competition.
2018 Global R&D funding forecast
According to the USA-based R&D magazine’s Global R&D Funding Forecast 2018, global R&D spending will increase by over 4% to nearly $2.2 trillion in purchasing power parity (based on 116 countries with significant R&D spending). USA spending represents about 25% of this total but notably is the increasing spend by China at a level of 22% with an expectation of overtaking the USA in the next few years. Asia as a whole represents 44% of the spend with Europe at 20%.(Germany 5.32% and UK at 2.26%). There has been a global downward trend in government support for R&D. (down 2.4% decline since 2010).
There is also an interesting change in the sectors dominating the Global R&D spend. Ten years ago the statistics were dominated by automotive and pharma companies such as VW, GM, Roche and Pfizer whereas today the spend is dominated by ICT companies with global forecast spend of $225 billion. The top 5 R&D spending companies – Amazon, Google/Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Intel alone spend more than $60 billion in 2017 and China is reportedly planning to spend $30 billion on new semi-conductor capacity. For additional comments/views see our ‘News & Opinions’ section on this website. Full survey results can be found here
R&D tax credits
R&D Tax Credit is a valuable UK Government tax incentive aimed at encouraging companies to invest in innovative technology projects. It can be claimed by any company doing R&D to develop an advance in their field. It can even be claimed on unsuccessful projects and can be back claimed for two years from the current accounting period. For profitable companies the benefit used to offset any tax liability tax (equivalent to 25% of any qualifying R&D expenditure. Loss making companies can also claim and in this case the credit can either be offset against future profit or recovered as a cash payment.
For tax purposes, HMRC requirements are quite broad and are basically defined by whether you are taking a risk by attempting to ‘resolve scientific or technological uncertainties’. This could include creating new products, processes or services or modifications to an existing product, process or service. Qualifying R&D expenditure includes cost of staff , subcontractors, materials and consumables. For more detail see
Government Industrial Strategy consultation document
In the middle of February the Government launched a green paper – the Industrial Strategy consultation document – which included ‘investing in science, research and innovation’ as the first of 10 ‘pillars’. The paper contains proposals to continue some existing policies as well as some new ideas but more importantly asks for input from interested parties to help form the Industrial Strategy. The R&D Society will be coordinating a response over the coming period based on new ideas on commercialising science and technology.
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and industrial strategy
In late November last year, the Prime Minister confirmed the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) would be a major element of its industrial strategy. Innovate UK has recently run a series of workshops on where the focus of this fund should be and have identified 8 areas where they believe there is great market potential – characterised by excellent UK research, and industrial capability – where this fund could be applied: Bioscience and biotechnology; Leading edge healthcare and medicine; Manufacturing processes and materials of the future; Smart, flexible and clean energy technologies; Quantum technologies; Robotics and artificial intelligence; Satellites and space technologies; and Transformative digital technologies. The R&D Society, with industrial partners, will be evaluating where the major opportunities for UK businesses lie, and how best to influence Government policy to support business R&D in these areas.
About the Society
What we do
From ideas to wealth
Founded more than 50 years ago, the Society recognises how the R&D landscape has changed, but our focus remains helping to make the UK one of the most attractive global environments for R&D. Read on on the About page
What we are planning
Industrial strategy, responding to Brexit, opening up membership
We are responding to events of the past 18 months, in industry and in politics and are responding via public events, round table meetings, and canvassing of opinion. In particular we are working on research, activities and engagement around Industrial strategy and responding to Brexit, and opening up membership. Read on on the About page
Shortly we will be re-opening membership. You will be able to be part of a community of R&D professionals and other, who share our aim of making the UK one of the most attractive global environments for R&D.
Members will get reduced cost entry to our programme of events, with the opportunity to meet and network with other professionals and people interested in R&D, as well receiving key news from the R&D Society