In March 2023, the UK government presented the Framework for the Development of Science and Technology, defining a number of specific steps to achieve the status of a science and technology superpower by 2030. The HSE Institute for Statistical Research and Economics of Knowledge analyzed the document and identified the priorities of British policy in this area for the next decade.
The UK intends to be consistently perceived as the leader of the scientific and technological agenda in Europe and the third country in the world in this area after the USA and China. The implementation of measures will unfold both externally, for example, in line with strengthening international leadership in the field of standardization in advanced technologies; and within the country.
in particular from the angle of improving public awareness of the goals and successes of its scientific and technological development. The government expects that by 2030 the share of Britons who believe that science provides additional career opportunities will grow from 57% (according to the latest public opinion polls) to 80%.
planned in the amount of 20 billion pounds (about 2 trillion rubles1) – an increase of 5 billion pounds (492 billion rubles) compared to 2022. The government is also betting on the diversification of funding sources, including the strengthening of corporate science, support startups and scale-ups.
A number of measures relate to building a regulatory environment that stimulates innovation, developing scientific infrastructure and various formats of cooperation in the field of science; options for attracting highly qualified specialists from abroad are also proposed.
The first of them is the formation of a list of critical technologies. Based on the analysis of more than 50 technological areas according to eight criteria, the authors of the document identified five groups of critical technologies, on which they propose to focus key resources to ensure the country’s technological superiority (Fig. 1).
For each of the groups, their own support plan and a package of strategic documents will be developed with the involvement of the responsible authorities. For example, in March, a ten-year strategy in the field of quantum technologies was adopted.
Other initiatives listed in the document are designed to provide the most favorable environment for the development of critical technologies. They are grouped into nine areas:
identifying the strengths of the UK;
maximizing the inflow of investments in R&D;
comprehensive support for talents and competencies;
ensuring sufficient funding for innovative companies in high-tech and knowledge-intensive sectors;
improving the public procurement system as a driver of innovation;
development of a network of international partnerships;
providing researchers with access to physical and digital infrastructure;
achieving leadership in the field of regulation and standardization of key technologies;
introduction of innovations in public services.
For each of them, the desired guidelines are given, not only the vision of the future, but also concrete results (including quantified goals for the horizon up to 2030), as well as a list of actions that are planned to be taken in the near future.
The authors of the Framework emphasize the importance of annually reviewing the list of critical technologies while maintaining strict criteria for their determination. This task is entrusted to the National Council for Science and Technology.
Optimization of financial support instruments
In order to establish sustainable and efficient funding for R&D, the government intends to audit all state science support programs and reduce bureaucratic procedures when allocating funds for research programs.
The goal is to reduce the funding gap for innovative companies and reach the US level in terms of this indicator, especially in terms of scale-up companies in the late rounds of attracting investments.
To finance growing innovative companies, including small high-tech ones, the state bank for economic development British Business Bank, pension funds and digitalization grant programs (Digital Growth Grant) will be attracted. To attract borrowed capital through the stock exchange, it is planned to implement the recommendations from the Hill Review into legislation as soon as possible.
Institutional investments, in particular the funds of pension funds, will also be directed to scaling up innovative companies. On the one hand, this should contribute to the growth of the profitability of pension savings, and on the other hand, it will create an opportunity for the most promising enterprises to gain access to internal sources of capital.
By the end of 2023, a bill on the reform of the public procurement system will be passed through parliament, according to which access to procurement for small innovative businesses will become easier and more flexible. Agencies will be required to regularly inform about the need for innovative products and services, as well as undergo a public audit of relevant requests.
For sustainable financing of developments in the field of critical technologies, it is planned to establish the minimum required share of public procurement of such products.
This, in particular, should be facilitated by the scaling of the Small Business Research Initiative (developers of new technologies interact directly with the public sector, while participating in the optimization of public services and management processes).
To equalize regional development, by 2030 the goal is to increase the amount of domestic spending on R&D outside the capital region (South-East England) by at least 40% by 2030.
These funds should stimulate the growth of labor productivity, wages, the quantity and quality of jobs and living standards in the respective regions. It is expected to strengthen commercialization and knowledge sharing through targeted support for local innovation clusters.