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The Government's R&D roadmap sets high ambitions for UK science

The roadmap sets out the Government's vision to make the UK a global science and R&D superpower.

The UK Government has published a new roadmap to establishing a future UK R&D strategy to make the UK a research and science superpower.

The announcement reaffirms the Government’s pledge to double public R&D investment to £22 billion a year by 2025 in the March 2020 Budget, and initiates a consultation on how this should be allocated setting out a number of key questions as the Government develops it’s R&D plan, these include:

  • How can we best increase knowledge and understanding through research, including by achieving bigger breakthroughs?
  • How can we maximise the economic, environmental and societal impact of research through effective application of new knowledge?
  • How can we encourage innovation and ensure it is used to greatest effect, not just in our cutting-edge industries, but right across the economy and throughout our public services?
  • How can we attract, retain and develop talented and diverse people to R&D roles?
  • How can we make R&D for everyone?
  • How should we ensure that R&D plays its fullest role in levelling up all over the UK?
  • How should we strengthen our research infrastructure and institutions in support of our vision?
  • How should we most effectively and safely collaborate with partners and networks around the globe?

How can we harness excitement about this vision, listen to a wider range of voices to ensure R&D is delivering for society, and inspire a whole new generation of scientists, researchers, technicians, engineers, and innovators?

Over the coming months the Government will seek to work with industry and stakeholders to develop answers to the questions set out in the roadmap into a comprehensive R&D plan. This includes a high-level questionnaire seeking to bring in a wide variety of voices into this discussion.

Office for talent

Alongside the publication of the roadmap the Government has announced a new Office for Talent. The Office for talent will seek to ensure the UK develops a strong offer for international talent, competitive with other leading countries and will seek to make it easier for those with the most talent, potential, energy and creativity to come to the UK from around the world.

The annoucement of the Office for Talent accompanied a new graduate route for UK residency, where international students who complete a PhD from Summer 2021 will be able to stay in the UK for three years after study to live and work.

A welcome start

techUK was happy to contribute to the creation of the R&D roadmap and it is welcome to see the Government zero in on key questions around applied research, the commercialization of the UK’s world leading research and how R&D and innovation can contribute to regional growth.

Creating a better balance of where research investment is located across the regions and nations of the UK will be vital to our economic growth. As increasing the deployment of innovation throughout the country will be essential to creating  the high growth and resilient economic clusters we will need for a full recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

It is also welcome to see an enhanced focus on talent, bigger bets and blue skies research as this will help open doors to the worlds brightest and best as well as making the UK an attractive place for those who want to continue to operate at the cutting edge of research and science.

The tech sector sits at the fulcrum where world leading research becomes the next generation of products and services, with many of the UK’s most successful tech companies having their roots in our world-class university and research institutes. However, while the sector has benefited from the UK’s research excellence, it has often been third-party actors, VCs, and investors in the City of London which have driven commercialisation, not the UK’s R&D ecosystem.

In short, the UK’s current R&D strategy is very good at supporting the “R” in R&D, but lags in the development of that research into new companies, products, and services.

The R&D roadmap recognises this and poses focused and detailed questions on how to a greater emphasis on the development side of R&D while also seeking to address important questions such as how we can build a better, more equitable R&D ecosystem and attract and train the best talent in research and science.

techUK will continue to work closely with BEIS as they develop this roadmap into a successful and ambitious R&D strategy.

Responding to the Government’s announcement on the R&D roadmap techUK CEO Julian David said:

“techUK welcomes the publication of the R&D Roadmap as the next step in the pathway to making the UK a science superpower. The tech sector has a key role to play in that conversation, sitting as it does at the fulcrum where world leading research becomes the next generation of products and services.

“Whilst the sector has benefited from the UK’s research excellence, much more can be done to commercialise the ideas and innovation we see in our research centres and universities. This roadmap provides the framework for addressing that imbalance by cultivating a rich and diverse R&D ecosystem in every part of the country that works on both the research and development side of the equation.

“techUK will continue to work closely with BEIS, through our regular engagement and our partnerships with stakeholders across the regions and nation of the UK to ensure the ambitious plans laid out in the Roadmap become reality. This will be vital so that the UK can continue to attract the talent, investment and innovation necessary to put it firmly at the heart of the global digital economy.”


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