R&D at centre of Government’s Levelling Up White Paper

The UK Government has put Research and Development at the heart of its newly announced White Paper to “level up” the UK, pledging to increase public investment outside the south-east by at least 40 per cent by 2030. This increased public investment in Research & Development is set to increase across the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will aim to invest at least 55% of its total domestic R&D funding outside the Greater South East by 2024‑25; the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will increase National Institute for Health Research investment outside London, Oxford and Cambridge; and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will expand the regional footprint of the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The R&D spending pledge is one of 12 “Missions” (Levelling Up the United Kingdom: missions and metrics) set out in the Levelling Up White Paper, with the Government stating that its resources, energy, and focus throughout the 2020s will be re-oriented around achieving these Missions, to help the people and parts of the country most struggling. The Government has committed to “work hand in hand” with the devolved governments to achieve them.

The White Paper states that achieving the R&D “Mission 2” is a key component of strengthening the UK’s position as a global hub of innovation by 2035 and becoming a science superpower, while increasing the local benefits of R&D. It aims to increase research and innovation capacity around the UK, reducing spatial disparities in R&D investment and activity, improving intangible capital and living standards across the UK

The White Paper also announced plans for three new “innovation accelerators”, centred on Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow, promising £100 million for local businesses and researchers, “learning from the MIT-Greater Boston and Stanford-Silicon Valley models”.

The Paper states that levelling up requires a focused, long-term plan of action and a clear framework to identify and act upon the drivers of spatial disparity, noting that evidence from a range of disciplines tells us these drivers can be encapsulated in six “capitals”.

  • Physical capital – infrastructure, machines and housing.
  • Human capital – the skills, health and experience of the workforce.
  • Intangible capital – innovation, ideas and patents.
  • Financial capital – resources supporting the financing of companies.
  • Social capital – the strength of communities, relationships and trust.

With its Hub in Manchester, an explicit ambition of galvanising the North of England’s innovation eco-system and economy was part of Royce’s founding mission. Indeed Royce, alongside other National Institutes, has a central role in supporting local economies. Critically a number of such institutes, including Royce’s Hub and a number of its Partners, are situated outside the South East and are developing expertise in research and innovation throughout these key regions. However, importantly, such impact is also achieved through regional deployment of advanced materials expertise and capability from across all of Royce’s Partners no matter where they are situated in the UK.

And indeed, capability that is developed in Royce’s Northern Partners can also be extended nationally.  For example, ERDF funding is supporting a Royce Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub (SMI Hub)  in the Greater Manchester region around innovative design, reuse and recycling of plastics and packaging. This initiative has the potential to be replicated in other UK regions.

Download Levelling Up the United Kingdom White Paper