UK launches plan to capitalise on science and technology breakthroughs

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would make renewed efforts to capitalize on the UK’s scientific and technological breakthroughs with a program to direct research into areas that benefit the public good.

FILE PHOTO: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance during a press conference expected to announce new restrictions to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at 10 Downing Street in London, UK. October 31st, 2020. Alberto Pezzali / Pool via REUTERS

Johnson will chair a group established to “provide strategic directions for the use of science and technology as tools to address great societal challenges, rise across the country and increase prosperity around the world,” his office said .

With the aim of generating strategic profits for the UK after Brexit, the plan aims to build on the success of the country’s coronavirus vaccine program and identify other areas where the research and development sector can benefit from government funding.

“From discovery to delivery, our vaccination program has shown what the UK can do on a large scale and at high speed,” Johnson said in a statement.

“With the right direction, the right pace and the right support, we can bring life to many more scientific and technological breakthroughs that are changing the lives of people in Britain and the world.”

The government’s senior scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, will lead a new public agency tasked with implementing the strategy.

Beyond COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the UK is looking to leverage its research capabilities to secure some of the economic benefits of moving to greener technologies, despite intense competition from other nations.

Most of the UK’s research and development spending is funded by the private sector, and total investment in 2018 was 1.731% of GDP – below the OECD average of 2.419%, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Since leaving the European Union, the government has announced that it will increase its spending on research and development.

The company plans to invest £ 14.9 billion ($ 20.58 billion) in 2021/22, grow to 22 billion by 2024/25, and is committed to total R&D investment to 2.4 by 2027 % of economic output to increase.

($ 1 = 0.7242 pounds)

Reporting from William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich