Sir Paul Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse

The UK’s excellent science base supports companies across industrial sectors to innovate, bringing broad benefits for society and supporting economic growth. Today, the Society is publishing six case studies about businesses using science in the UK.

The UK has created a world-leading research base, which provides the foundation for new ideas and discoveries, fuelling economic growth, training skilled people and improving productivity. Industry is an integral part of this rich ecosystem, together investing more in research and development than government. In these new case studies we present six stories about businesses using science in the UK. Together, they demonstrate the diverse ways in which science inspires innovation, and how this supports businesses to turn new knowledge into benefits for society.

New companies can spring from new discoveries, such as Immunocore, a growing biotechnology company that was built from fundamental biological research at Oxford, or Artemis Intelligent Power that was founded to commercialise technology that had been developed at the University of Edinburgh. Maintaining links with academia can also support companies as they develop. Artemis was given space and time to grow by the University of Edinburgh and in Dundee, a cluster of companies around Abertay University are building on decades-old computer science to design new computer games, drawing on a pool of technically and creatively skilled people.

Relationships between business and academia support innovation in established companies too. GlaxoSmithKline—who are involved with more collaborations than any other company in the UK—are working with the DSTT research consortium to develop new classes of drugs. Insurance brokers Willis have established a network of links with top academic institutions, to build scientific expertise about extreme weather events into their business, and Arup have worked with researchers in Cambridge to safely tunnel underneath London to construct the Crossrail.

Businesses using science to innovate helps the UK to compete on the global stage. Excellent research attracts foreign investment, like Japanese Mitsubishi’s investment in Artemis Intelligent Power. It also keeps multinational companies like GSK here, and attracts companies to the UK, like Outplay Entertainment that relocated from California to be part of the Dundee cluster. Using science also helps businesses to bring in international revenues by developing market-leading products; one eighth of the world’s top prescription medicines were developed in the UK.

The UK research and innovation ecosystem that supports all of this is underpinned by public policy and investment. This includes the science budget, but also other funding through Innovate UK, which helped Artemis to grow, or other public bodies like the UK Met Office, which is part of the Willis Research Network.

Together, these stories show the benefits of businesses using science in the UK. UK business investment in R&D is relatively low by international standards, and industry should be encouraged to invest more. The UK’s excellence in science can inspire companies to innovate, helping us to reap the benefits of research for society.