I spoke in the debate on the Advance Research and Innovation Agency Bill, calling on the Government to protect UK spending on research and development as, while setting up a new agency and claiming research to be at the centre of their economic policy, they are threatening to cut university research funding.
The appalling impact of their cut to the international aid budget, includes the closure of current research programmes in Africa and Asia in the last few weeks. Only yesterday, the Royal Society described powerfully to me how this has forced it to withdraw funding from existing projects, as well as shut down future opportunities, with huge implications not just for development, global research, and the relationships with the Indo-Pacific nations that the Prime Minister claims to want build.
The Government has threatened to backtrack on its promise to fund the association with Horizon Europe and reports suggest it may require this funding to come from UKRI’s existing budget. When I met UKRI recently, on extending studentships where research has been delayed by Covid, we discussed the immense pressure on its budgets. Horizon participation would take about 11% of UKRI funding, or £1 billion – equivalent to 18,000 research-focused academic jobs.
In my speech I talked about the importance of public investment in research to drive innovation, support economic growth and generate tax revenue – highlighting the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre. From seed corn public funding, the AMRC now has more than 125 industrial partners, and employs more than 500 researchers and engineers from all over the world, with the university at the centre pulling together that collaboration.
The Government must sustain and improve investment in UK research, not slash our R&D budget, or we will lose out to global competition.