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Autumn statement R&D investment a boost for universities

Autumn Statement’s new National Productivity Investment Fund warmly welcomed by HE

Today’s Autumn Statement included the announcement of the new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), focusing on four areas critical for improving productivity: housing, transport, digital communications, and research and development (R&D)

The NPIF will provide for £23bn of spending between 2017-18 and 2021-22. This builds on existing plans for major investment during this Parliament, including the biggest affordable house-building programme since the 1970s and prioritising science and innovation spending. The NPIF will take total spending on housing, economic infrastructure, and R&D to £170bn over the next five years.

To help boost UK productivity the NPIF will provide an additional £4.7bn by 2020-21 in R&D funding. Via the NPIF, the government will fund the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – a new cross-disciplinary fund managed by Innovate UK and research councils to support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base, which will set identifiable challenges for UK researchers to tackle.

More funding will be allocated to increase research capacity and business innovation, to further support the UK’s world-leading research base and to unlock its full potential.

Responding today, Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said: “We share the Chancellor’s ambition to bridge the productivity gap with greater investment in research and innovation. Our universities should be at the heart of an ambitious industrial strategy to boost productivity and create a resilient economy based on high-skilled jobs, innovation and cutting-edge research.

“The Prime Minister’s commitment to spending on R&D is very welcome and much needed as our universities face increasingly stiff competition from our international rivals who have benefited from greater levels of Government investment. The further detail in the Autumn Statement is good news – £4.7 billion of additional investment over the next Parliament will support the excellent research within our world-class universities and their continued collaboration with business.

“We look forward to responding to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and building on the strength and success of our universities in research and innovation to drive growth across the UK.” The Russell Group has recently released its Engines of Growth report, highlighting how the group’s research is delivering a wide range of benefits for the UK economy. 

The University Alliance, meanwhile, has published a paper setting out how Alliance universities can help government deliver its ambitions for growth.

The document, Universities: delivery partners for industrial strategy, sets out how, by working closely with business, Alliance universities produce high-level skills and support high-value innovation. 

Commenting on today’s Autumn Statement, Chief Executive Maddalaine Ansell added: “The Autumn Statement’s focus on raising productivity and boosting high-skilled jobs is the right one. Skills and innovation are key to achieving these aims so the additional investment announced today in R&D and support for cross-disciplinary collaboration between universities and business through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is welcome.

“In meeting these ambitions, Alliance universities stand ready as delivery partners in waiting: anchors for national and regional growth, closely linked to high value industry and the hub and spoke in SME growth and innovation.

“As our report sets out today, the government needs to make the most of these tremendous assets, as well as providing a long-term replacement for EU structural funding with a British Growth Fund tailored to the needs of the UK economy.”

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