Facilitating Commercialisation of Science in the UK
The Chemistry Council businesses invest over £10bn globally each year on innovation and R&D. The UK has a core strength in the R&D centres located in the UK, and universities that are globally renowned for their scientists and engineers. Facilitating the translation of science into industry and then supporting scale-up to full scale manufacture in the UK is critical to ensuring the long-term value from innovation is delivered in the UK.
However, the annual Bloomberg report of most innovative national economies ranked the UK as 17th in 2018, with South Korea coming top of the list. The UK ranks 20th for the percentage of GDP spent on research and development, and only ranks 40th in terms of the value added by manufacturing as a percentage of GDP. This suggests that more support is required to encourage the commercialisation and manufacture of technology in the UK.
Recognising the need to boost R&D spend as a percentage of GDP, Government has responded by increasing the level of public spend, with a commitment to raise R&D intensity to 2.4% by 2027 and 3% thereafter. Alongside this commitment, support in the form of incentives is required.
Countries such as Ireland have adopted deliberate fiscal incentives to encourage companies to base their R&D centres there. Significant tax breaks have resulted in a movement of businesses to these areas and similar incentives should be considered for the UK.
Whilst structures such as the Patent Box and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) are welcomed, specific incentives should be considered to support start-ups to prosper and grow into large scale manufacturing organisations in the UK, thus ensuring the return on investment in innovation is delivered in the UK. Structures such as flow-through shares have been highlighted as potential vehicles that have proven successful in other countries.
Strengthening and Connecting Institutions
The UK has impressive capabilities to generate fundamental science, universities (supported by societies such as the RSC), societies, such as SCI, designed to support the translation of science into industry, and a range of Catapult Centres to support the scale up to full scale manufacture. Building awareness of and ensuring connectivity between the current assets will ensure they are utilised effectively.
Innovation Skills of the Future
Sector technologies are undergoing radical change and this will require new skills to support innovation. A healthy pipeline of young scientists and engineers, adequately equipped to take on the challenges of the future, is critical. For industry, these scientists and engineers need to be equipped not only with a depth of subject matter expertise but the broad skills to enable them to work with a diverse range of new technologies.
Chemists, biologists and engineers need to have an appreciation of subject areas such as digital technologies, informatics, computational science and formulation science. In addition, building entrepreneurial skills at an early age will help spur a new generation of innovators.