Key R&D developments
In March 2022 the UK government allocated a budget of £39.8billion to R&D for 2022-2025 to support its Innovation Strategy1and is currently beating its target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027, though this is due to an upward revision of the counting methodology for R&D expenditure by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is significant as one of a number of government initiatives, but these separate initiatives are not integrated into a coherent national plan. Apart from the UK government using tax incentives to encourage the market to drive changes, there is no strategic framework which could underpin a national industrial strategy. This brief paper addresses three key issues:
UK Horizon Participation
An urgent need to align with economic strategy
This is the first of a series of review papers prepared as background to the roundtable discussions planned for later this year by the R&D Society commercialisation think tank in collaboration with the Triple Chasm Company.
In March this year (2023), the government published two policy papers related to Science & Technology: The first, TheScience and Technology Framework and the second, The UK’s International Technology Strategy.
It is good that the government is now talking about a Science and Technology Framework – it is however a shame that the missing piece is any kind of framework! In overall terms this so-called framework paper is long on vision and general aspiration but short on specifics. In particular, the approach adopted serves to highlight the gap between rhetoric and reality.
The title talks about taking a systems approach to UKscience and technology, but there is no subsequent attempt to define system boundaries in any way; and for a paper billed as the UK Science and Technology Framework there is sadly no systematic framework underpinning the discussion and conclusions.
Critically, while the paper talks about technology, skills,and investment, it says very little about changing market structures, regulation, and intellectual property, which are critical for a ‘joined-up’ approach.
The UK’s approach to the formulation and communication of an Industrial Strategy can best be summarised as stop-start, inconsistent and generally inadequate for a major global industrialised economy. This has serious consequences for research priorities, industrial engagement, and public-private resource allocation.
This is a problem which needs to be tackled head-on with rigorous fresh thinking. In response to this challenge, the RDS has launched a major research initiative to support the development of a new Industrial Strategy for the UK.
The development of a coherent industrial strategy depends on three key elements:
· An approach based on systems thinking, which explicitly articulates system boundaries, defines all the value-based elements within the system, and explores how these elements interact within the system boundary
· An integrative approach which recognizes that a wide range of factors can affect industrial strategy, explicitly defines these drivers, and examines how these can be integrated to create a framework which enables relative priorities to be quantified
· A dynamic approach to applying the drivers which explicitly articulates the maturity of innovations, based on defining the Commercialisation Readiness Level CRL
The RDS has partnered with the Triple Chasm Company to apply the TripleChasm framework which provides the first systematic methodology for understanding how science and technology enabled innovation can be transformed to deliver social, environmental and commercial impact.
See details of the new RDS research programme
In this newsletter
Thought leadership from Dr David Hughes, Newsletter Editor
Political leaders around the globe emphasize the importance of science, technology and innovation to deliver their national growth strategies - but turning this rhetoric into reality is hampered by poor understanding of how innovations can actually be translated to deliver impact. In this paper we describe a new approach to the creation of a national Commercialisation Infrastructure.
Our criticisms of ARIA, which have been articulated before in our Newsletters, have been highlighted by the bottom-up approach being adopted by the new management team. So we have a scatter gun approach assessing proposals made by researchers (no doubt rewriting their pet projects to meet ARIA requirements). How on earth do people think this will deliver real growth in the near term, let alone a ‘strategy’?
By contrast something veryinteresting is happening in the European Innovation Council (EIC). This was originally also planned as a bottom-up innovation fund but it appears that the new management team there have done a significant reversal and are now aiming at top-down, targeted research. So they have recently announced that the EIC will focus much more on scoping the potential for technological and innovation breakthroughs and for directing projects into a coherent plan that will support development of a competitive sector.
An example is the Pathfinder Challenges which set objectives rather than waiting for applicants to suggest projects. The first project aims to fill gaps in EU’s cell and gene therapy sector in particular to address issues of scale-up, cost, patient access and becoming commercially successful. So, for example, their focus is reported as emphasis on manufacturing and scale-up of patient-specific therapies. UK policymakers take note please!
Ironically, this strategic focus was the basis of setting up the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in 2004 but this was lost when the TSB was converted to an arms-length agency (now Innovate UK).
We remain optimistic that the opportunity for real economic growth exists in the UK but to realise that we will need a sea change in the actions of both business leaders and policy makers. One of the key areas to emerge in much of the news, is the importance of strategy. Much has been written about strategy but the great business leaders seem to focus their strategic thinking on where to play and how to win against the competition. Following the appointment of a new Prime
Minister and Cabinet, we applaud the growth ambition but currently cannot see any credible plans to achieve that. We look forward to seeing the detail statement over the coming weeks.
It is also worth reflecting on the view of technology futurist, Mark Andreessen, when he looks at the emerging areas for growth which he describes by the acronym ABC:
A for artificial intelligence around for example deep learning, machine learning, GPT-3 (generative pre-trained transformer 3).
B for biotech with genomics and now the mRNA revolution, and the revolution of bringing together the disciplines of biology and engineering.
C for crypto and Web3, which is a revolution around distributed consensus, building trusted networks on the internet.
There’s an incredible wave of talent in the form of top-end engineers, scientists, executives, and founders flooding into those three sectors. The UK needs to make best use of such global talent and focus on those areas where the UK has maximum potential to accelerate growth.
We are delighted to announce a new collaboration with the Triple Chasm Company focussing on developing a better understanding of the innovation landscape in the UK.
The R&D Society and the Triple Chasm Company share the same goals of improving the translation of ideas into commercial, social and environmental impact. The research collaboration is focused on generating practical insights for innovative high-growth companies, enabling them to better focus their efforts.
The R&D Society will promote Triple Chasm research and tools to its membership resulting in better data-driven decisions, leading to faster, more sustainable growth.
Iain Simpson, Chairperson of The R&D Society said:
"We seek to maintain UK as one of the most attractive global environments for R&D, with a particular emphasis on realising its potential to impact social and economic wealth. With this in mind we are delighted to form a strategic partnership with the Triple Chasm Company to support applying its research-based methodologies to develop a better understanding of the innovation landscape in the UK linking the micro, meso, and macro factors that ensure economic growth and sustainability."
Dr Phadke, CEO of the Triple Chasm added:
“We are delighted about this new collaboration which should enable more rigorous evidence-driven approaches which go beyond simple macro-economic notions of market failure, productivity gaps, and volatile investor sentiment.“
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 the About page
Industrial strategy, responding to UK and international initiatives, opening up membership
We are responding to local and global events of the past 18 months in industry and in politics, via public events, round table meetings, and canvassing of opinion. In particular we are working on research, activities and engagement around Industrial strategy and opening up membership.
See our events page for more details
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 commercialisation, as well receiving key news from the R&D Society including updates on policy in the UK and aboard, as well as other information relevant to theR&D community