LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will lead a new campaign to capitalize on scientific and technological breakthroughs in Britain with a program to steer research into areas that will benefit the public good.
Johnson will chair a group set up to “provide strategic direction on the use of science and technology as tools to tackle great societal challenges, to take it to the next level across the country and to drive prosperity around the world.” , his office said.
Seeking strategic gains for post-Brexit Britain, the plan seeks to build on the success of the country’s coronavirus vaccine program and identify other areas where the research and development sector may benefit from government funding.
“From discovery to delivery, our vaccination program has proven what the UK can achieve on a large scale and quickly,” Johnson said in a statement.
“With the right direction, the right pace and the right support, we can bring to life many other scientific and technological breakthroughs that are transforming the lives of people across the UK and the world.”
The government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, will head a new public body whose role will be to implement the strategy.
Beyond COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Britain wants to use its research capacity to achieve some of the economic benefits of a transition to greener technology, although competition from other countries is intense.
The majority of research and development spending in Britain is funded by the private sector, and overall investment in 2018 was 1.731% of GDP according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – below the OECD average of 2.419%.
Since leaving the European Union, the government has announced its intention to increase its R&D spending.
It plans to invest 14.9 billion pounds (20.58 billion dollars) in 2021/22, to reach 22 billion by 2024/25, and has pledged to bring the total investment in R&D to 2 , 4% of economic production by 2027.
($ 1 = 0.7242 pounds)
Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich