Press release: International partnership opportunities for UK research and innovation

  • Independent report sets out new opportunities to boost international partnerships on research and innovation
  • the government will seek to maintain a close relationship with Europe on research and innovation
  • continued international collaboration is vital to the UK remaining a global science superpower, tackling the world’s Grand Challenges and attracting and retaining the talent we need

A new, independent report has been published today (Tuesday 5 November) by Professor Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid, which sets out the new opportunities for the UK to extend its international collaborations.

International collaborations are fundamental to the UK maintaining its position as a global science superpower. These partnerships are helping to meaningfully tackle global challenges like climate change, life-threatening diseases, and the world’s ageing society, as well as advancing technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) that could transform whole industries.

The government will also consider associating to Horizon Europe, the EU’s future science, research and innovation programme. This reflects the government’s desire to maintain a close relationship with Europe and globally on science and research funding whatever the circumstances.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said:

The UK is a global science superpower, and this deserved reputation helps deliver real economic and social benefits right across the country.

International collaboration allows the UK to work at a greater scale than we could do alone, with unique partnerships from helping find new cures for life-threatening diseases to developing cleaner transport.

Participating in Horizon programmes opens the door for businesses and research institutions to work with our European partners on the next big breakthroughs. But we should also be looking beyond Europe and seeking new relationships around the world.

The publication of Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid’s report today provides independent advice which we will consider carefully. Their work will inform our thinking and help support our continued ambition to be at the cutting-edge of research and innovation.

The new report by Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid provides a range of principles and ideas, setting out potential opportunities for the UK to extend its international collaborations globally and strengthen current partnerships, including options in the event the UK does not stay fully part of European funding programmes. In any case, the government is firmly committed to protecting, preserving and enhancing cutting-edge international science collaboration.

This includes options for:

  • protecting and enhancing the UK’s science, research and innovation base, including through building R&D capacity across the UK
  • increasing the agility of research funding to react to new and unexpected international opportunities
  • striding towards the government’s commitment to increase research and development (R&D) investment to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027 including attracting foreign direct investment to the UK
  • developing a Global Talent Strategy to attract and retain a wide range of scientific talent in the UK

Professor Graeme Reid said:

The recent creation of UKRI; the government’s commitment to raise overall levels of R&D investment in the UK to at least 2.4% of GDP; and high levels of international R&D activity in business, research institutes and universities make it timely to review current arrangements with a view to developing a bold new vision for UK research and innovation.

Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said:

Research and innovation are essential for economic growth and to help tackle societal challenges and opportunities. As this report makes clear, international collaboration is absolutely fundamental to the strength of the UK’s research and innovation sector and always has been.

The report focuses on what options there could be in the event that the UK does not stay fully part of the European funding system. It makes an important contribution in identifying how the UK could maintain and build on close relationships with our partners in Europe and around the world.

UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Report published

Today UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) published its infrastructure report, which identifies investment opportunities across the UK and internationally until 2030. The report will inform future funding decisions, ensuring investment in UK’s research and innovation will have the most beneficial impact for the UK and is translated into real-world opportunities.

The opportunities that the report sets out range from investing in biotechnology, to future transport solutions, to renewable energy sources.

Investing in R&D is critical for the future growth of the UK economy. It is estimated that more than half of the country’s productivity growth will be driven by new ideas, research and technology.

Building on the UK’s world class research strengths, the government has already reaffirmed its commitment to increase R&D investment by at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027. It has made a series of announcements to support researchers while retaining and attracting talent to the UK - including:

Notes to editors

Sir Adrian Smith’s report

Read the full report by Sir Adrian Smith.

Sir Adrian Smith was commissioned in March 2019 to provide independent advice on the design of potential future UK funding schemes for international collaboration on research and innovation. He was supported by Professor Graeme Reid, Chair of Science and Research Policy at UCL.

The report recommendations have been developed drawing from an extensive programme of stakeholder engagement. This included a written call for evidence and meetings held across all regions of the UK and in Brussels.

European Horizon programmes

This government has participated in negotiations with European partners in a positive spirit as Horizon Europe takes shape - and intends to consider associating to the programme if it provides value for money and is in the best interest of the UK. Any decision about associating to the programme will need to take place after both the Horizon Europe proposal and the Multiannual Financial Framework discussions have been completed in Council.

In the event of a no-deal exit from the European Union, the government has guaranteed funding for all successful competitive, eligible UK bids submitted to H2020 before the end of 2020. Separately, if the European Commission stops evaluating UK bids submitted before EU exit to the mono-beneficiary elements of the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and the SME Instrument (now known as the European Innovation Council Accelerator) mono-beneficiary schemes, then UKRI will take over the independent assessment of these proposals.

UKRI’s Infrastructure Report

Read the full UKRI Infrastructure Report UK’s research and innovation infrastructure: opportunities to grow our capability.

Commissioned by ministers following the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the Infrastructure Report was developed by UKRI in consultation with the research and innovation community. It is intended as a strategic guide to inform future investment decisions and identification of priorities for the next-generation of R&D infrastructure to 2030. It identifies long term future research and innovation infrastructure capability themes and opportunities.