Science investment by state ‘can increase private spending’

CaSE report kicks off lobbying for research ahead of next spending review

April 30, 2014

Investment in science and innovation should not be seen as a zero-sum game in which public and private investment can substitute for each other, a new report argues.

By international standards, the balance of R&D spending in the UK is skewed disproportionally towards the public sector, prompting calls from some observers for the state to pull back and for industry to invest more.

But the report argues that there is a strong correlation between public research funding and private sector involvement in research. It says universities with higher levels of public funding generate more research income from non-public sources, while research council-funded scientists are more likely to be involved in the commercial application of their research.

The report, commissioned by the Campaign for Science and Engineering and written by academics from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, is the first of what is likely to be a string of documents setting out the economic case for investment in science ahead of the next four-year spending review, which will occur soon after next spring’s general election.

The report finds that higher public research investment correlates with higher industry productivity, particularly in industries that carry out a lot of R&D. It says this is not only because publicly funded research is more applicable to such sectors, but also because companies that carry out their own R&D have a higher “absorbative capacity” to make use of publicly funded research.

It cites the proximity of pharmaceutical companies’ research labs to highly rated university chemistry departments as evidence that multinational companies’ decisions about where to carry out their R&D is affected by the quality of a nation’s science base.

Report author Alan Hughes, a senior research associate at Cambridge’s Centre for Business Research, said the report provided “compelling evidence” that public investment in research increases rather than diminishes private sector investment.

“They should not be seen as substitutes in the drive to enhance the productivity performance of the UK,” he said.

Sarah Main, director of CaSE, said: “The UK has a world-class reputation for scientific research, which innovative industries want to access. Government will reap great rewards by investing in science through university and research funding because it raises our knowledge base and acts as a magnet for private sector investment.”

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (1)

While a few multinational company links are proving viable, university research collaboration with SMEs in particular remains quite weak, the latter in general seemingly reluctant or financially unable to properly invest in R&D. Therefore as a useful step to improving SME R&D capability and experience, perhaps vigorously open up the level 8 Doctoral Training Centre programme specifically to them, possibly as part of the Higher Apprenticeships initiative, this training aspect already being culturally familiar and traditionally enjoying State subsidy investment.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham