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Yesterday marked the release of the first Autumn Statement of the new Parliament, providing details on the economic forecast and predicted Government spending following the EU referendum result.

In his speech to the Commons, the Chancellor said that the UK 'does not invest enough in research, development and innovation'. To amend this, the UK will build on its strength in innovation in science and technology – to ensure the next generation of technological discoveries are made and developed in the UK.

As announced earlier this week by Prime Minister Theresa May, an additional £2bn per year will be made available to support UK innovation and R&D by 2020. This allocation will represent a significant increase on current total Government R&D spending.

The pledged £2bn per year forms part of a larger fund, the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). The NPIF will be established to enhance the UK’s position as a world-leader in science and innovation by providing an additional £4.7bn in R&D funding by 2020/21.

The NPIF funds will be managed by Innovate UK and the Research Councils, and will include an increase in Innovate UK grant funding. Once established, the funds will be allocated on the basis of excellence and are intended to promote cross-disciplinary business and science collaboration.

However, the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has criticised the pledged £2bn per year increase in R&D funding, saying it represents only a marginal increase from the current 1.7% of GDP to 1.8% of GDP; falling short of R&D investment in both Germany (2.9% GDP) and France (2.26% GDP), as well as the EU28 average (1.95% GDP).

On the environment, the Autumn Statement supports the Government’s commitment to 'decarbonise' the economy, although the cap on Carbon Price Support rates will be maintained. Clean energy will be supported by a predicted £100bn of private investment across the energy sector, over the next 15 years, while the Government will invest £170m in flood defence and resilience.

Responding to the Autumn Statement, Dr Laura Bellingan FRSB, director of science policy at the Royal Society of Biology said:
“The bioscience community will be heartened to hear the importance placed on long term, targeted investment in UK research and development, by the Government in its Autumn Statement.

“We support Government’s recognition that a fertile environment for collaborative research and development is key to raising economic productivity in the UK.

“We also welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to promoting increased financial investment in infrastructure, innovation, and workforce skills. To put these resources to best use, the UK must continue to generate and review effective and efficient regulation; endorse thriving collaborative networks and encourage a welcoming, inclusive environment for international talent.

“Initiatives which will further promote collaboration between the UK business and science sectors are also good news, however, we emphasise the importance of fundamental research; and of independence and neutrality in scientific enquiry.

“Based on the initiatives launched today, we are increasingly optimistic about the future of UK research and innovation in the life sciences, and believe that balanced consultation and continued collaboration between the UK bioscience sector and Government will be key to this.”

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