At the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday UK research was set a challenge: MIT spins out a company every six hours, no UK university comes close, how can we do better? By some measures we already do. Dr Hermann Hauser – a witness at the Committee and Royal Society Fellow – described how the UK is the second best in the world for university-business collaboration. Yet in an increasingly competitive world we need to up our game. As another witness, Royal Society Vice-President Professor John Pethica, pointed out: our competitors in Asia are fast growing their research investment.

The Lords Science and Technology Committee’s evidence session forms part of the debate around the economy, public investment in science and the current spending review where the Royal Society is playing a leading role. Earlier this week we published a joint response to the recent Government consultation on science funding along with the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Academy. This follows a statement by the UK national academies on research and growth that led to discussion on the Today Programme between the Royal Society’s President, Sir Paul Nurse, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Dr Vince Cable.

The core messages of the both the joint letter and the joint statement are simple, for UK research to maintain its strength and do even better Government should:

  • Build a stable ten year investment framework for research, innovation and skills that should sit at the heart of its emerging industrial strategy and plans for growth.
  • Commit to increased investment in research and innovation to keep pace with other leading scientific nations.
  • Secure the ring fencing of the science budget and continues to increase investment in research capital.
  • Ensure that research continues to be at the heart of evidence based policy making across Whitehall.
  • Create a world class research and innovation environment that is attractive to talent, collaboration and investment from industry and overseas.

Research and innovation helped make the UK an economic powerhouse during the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. To escape our present economic troubles bold leadership is required now to make the UK the best place in which to conduct world class research and innovation.