Superpower for science: Rishi Sunak pledges £20bn a year to fund research and tech ‘that will change world’

  • Britain is set to be turned into a global ‘science and technology superpower’
  • Pledge will see £20billion a year of funding given for groundbreaking research  
  • Rishi Sunak hopes that the UK will attract the best workers in the world to join her team
  • Government set a target of 2024 to reach £20billion a year for R&D investment

Britain will be turned into global ‘science and technology superpower’ with £20billion a year of funding for groundbreaking research.

Rishi Sunak made the pledge as part of a series of policies to encourage companies to invest in their businesses and attract the best workers from around the world to the UK.

The Government has set a target of 2024 to reach £20billion a year for research and development (R&D) investment, then rising to £22billion by 2026.

R&D is a broad term encompassing everything from drug companies running clinical trials to building satellites and designing artificial intelligence systems. 

Britain will be turned into global 'science and technology superpower' with £20billion a year of funding for groundbreaking research. Pictured: Pioneer Tim Peake

Britain will be turned into global ‘science and technology superpower’ with £20billion a year of funding for groundbreaking research. Pictured: Pioneer Tim Peake

Mr Sunak said: ‘We need to do what the people of this country have always done – invent, discover, and create the ideas and technologies that will change the world.’

The R&D commitment follows the burst in innovation British firms and universities showed when the pandemic struck, such as the creation of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine.

It also helps to support efforts by the UK in developing green energy technology. 

A Government source said: ‘We’ve seen the best of British science throughout the pandemic, so it’s absolutely right we’re backing our best minds with a record increase in R&D investment. 

“With this huge settlement, we can even go further to turn our country’s collective genius into new industries and technologies that can compete globally and improve people’s lives for better.”

Other proposals include making it easier for foreign companies to relocate to the UK, which will help keep British businesses on top of the game. 

And a network will be set up in the US, India and other countries to identify talented individuals from overseas universities and research institutions – who will then receive support to emigrate to Britain. 

It was one of a string of policies announced by Rishi Sunak (pictured) to encourage companies to plough cash into their businesses and to attract the brightest workers to the UK

Rishi Sunak (pictured), one of a number of policies that encouraged companies to invest in their businesses and to attract brightest workers to the UK, announced this policy.

Next year it will launch in two locations in the US – San Francisco and Boston. It will also go live at Bengaluru in India, before expanding to six more countries in 2023.

Ministers also said the R&D spending will allow the UK to become the first country to launch a rocket into orbit from Europe next year.

The rise to £20billion of spending on R&D a year by the end of the current Parliament represents an increase of 50 per cent. 

But some firms and unions were left disappointed by the Government’s timeline as it was initially aiming to provide £22billion of R&D funding a year by 2024.

Sunak has set a new target for 2026, pushing the deadline past the next election. This puts the policy at risk if there’s a change in government.

Verity Davidge, director of policy at manufacturing body Make UK, said: ‘The Government’s decision to push back on its target R&D expenditure is a disappointing response to the Government’s ambition to be a science superpower.

‘With two-thirds of all R&D expenditure coming from the UK manufacturing, this move undermines future business confidence to invest in new technologies and innovations.’

But other scientific leaders welcomed the commitment and praised the Government for laying out a clear timeline to reach the £22billion target.

Professor Sir Adrian Smith, president, Royal Society, stated that it was not ideal. But we are grown-ups. There are real pressures on the economy, but the Government is saying that it really does recognise that R&D is absolutely vital.’