Britain has long considered itself a powerhouse for science and technology. It takes pride in being the place where the structure of DNA was discovered, where the jet engine and the steam engine were invented, home to the originator of the web browser and the world’s first test tube baby.
But Britain hasn’t always been able to turn its scientific prowess into profitable enterprise. For example, the country was a computing pioneer but today plays a relatively minor role in the global computer industry.
Now the UK government is aiming to change that with a huge increase in the amount it invests in research and development. In March, the Chancellor Rushi Sunak unveiled plans to increase R&D spending from 1.7 per cent of GDP in 2017 to 2.4 per cent by 2027. The plans include significant increases in spending from both the government and the private sector.
That raises some important questions about how the money should be spent, how it can unlock investment from industry and whether the approach will ultimately create jobs and wealth while solving the most pressing problems facing society.