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22nd November 2016

May pledges £2bn a year to science

Theresa May promises an annual £2 billion to scientific research and development (R&D) by 2020 and review of current tax incentives to help the UK’s science and technology industry
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The Prime Minister has announced plans to increase spending in the science and technology sector to “help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and tech”.

Ms May wants to transform Britain into the “global go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors”, far from the opinion of the CBI who have said the country is more of a “follower rather than a leader”.

“Today, Britain has firms and researchers leading in some of the most exciting fields of human discovery. We need to back them and turn research strengths into commercial success”, she said.

“That means not only investing more in research and development (R&D), but ensuring we invest that money wisely, supporting technologies and sectors that have the potential to deliver long-term benefits for Britain.”

Continuing, she says that, “it is not about propping up failing industries or picking winners but creating the conditions where winners can emerge and grow.

“It is about backing those winners all the way, to encourage them to invest in the long-term future of Britain, and about delivering jobs and economic growth to every community and corner of the country.”

The address, which took place at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference, has come after frustrations have continued to grow over Ms May’s leadership and lack of support for businesses.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI, has openly slammed the Prime Minister’s stance on business – accusing her of effectively “closing the door” on Britain’s open economy. She also told Labour MP’s that major businesses were becoming increasingly irritated with the Conservative party’s seemingly “big business bad” message.

She said: “The UK will need to work hard to become the front-runner in global innovation, creating a pioneering economic role for itself that drives prosperity in every corner of the UK.”

Research has shown that whilst private R&D spending has risen by 5 per cent in 2015 to £20.9 billion, its share in the national income has remained the same for the last decade.

Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, has also voiced his concern. He told BBC News that, “an influx of money on its own won’t be sufficient in itself if we are to make the best use of this money.

“We need to hire the best talent. Hopefully a lot of that will be home-grown. But there is no substitute for attracting the best in the world so we can be the best in the world.”

In contradiction, Ms May, known for her tough stance on immigration, has spoken on this matter also – stating that to attract the best scientific talent, we had to bring immigration down to “sustainable levels”.

New tax incentives, such as the drop from 20 to 17 per cent by 2020 in corporation tax, is thought to be a way of influencing big companies to stay in the UK after the vote for Brexit.

On this, the Prime Minister has said: “My aim is not simply for the UK to have the lowest corporation tax in the G20, but also one that is profoundly pro-innvovation”.

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