July 7, 2020

New taskforce to advise on UK R&D to aid economic recovery

By Robert Scammell

The UK government has created a taskforce to advise on the country’s future research and development (R&D) projects, which it hopes will provide an economic boost to the country post-pandemic.

The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), a not-for-profit organisation representing business and higher education leaders, has been asked to launch the taskforce by UK Research and Innovation, the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK.

Creation of the taskforce forms part of the governments R&D roadmap, announced on 1 July. The UK’s R&D roadmap builds on the 2020 Spring Budget commitment to increase public investment in R&D to £22bn by 2024 to 2025.

Of this cash sum, Chancellor Rishi Sunak earmarked £800m for a new Advanced Projects Research Agency to emulate the US agency, which notably created the early internet. Dominic Cummings, advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, views such a blue sky thinking agency as crucial to the UK’s future economic prospects.

Net-zero carbon emissions, the productivity gap and emerging technologies are among the focus of the R&D roadmap.

UK R&D key to rebuilding post-Covid

The NCUB taskforce will provide advice to the government on how best to invest in science and technology, which is being touted as “critical to a swift economic and social recovery from the impacts of Covid-19”.

Sam Laidlaw, chair of the NCUB said:

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance and value of collaborative working. Against an unprecedented threat, no singular organisation or institution can operate in isolation.

“Building partnerships not only improves resilience but is a key enabler for new ideas and innovations to be developed. We welcome this exciting opportunity to provide advice and recommendations to UKRI as the country rebuilds post-Covid.”

In a letter to the NCUB David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said the taskforce could “provide insights to calibrate key challenges” and identify “likely timelines and opportunities”.

Read more: UK AI industry sees boost with two major investment projects


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