The artificial intelligence (AI) and cleantech sectors seem to have good news with the UK government unveiling its £39.8 billion research and development (R&D) budget.
Announced today (14 March), the “largest ever R&D budget” has been allocated across the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s partner organisations.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng states: “For too long, R&D spending in the UK has trailed behind our neighbours – and in this country, science and business have existed in separate spheres. I am adamant that this must change. Now is the moment to unleash British science, technology and innovation to rise to the challenges of the 21st century.”
The idea is to deliver on the government’s Innovation Strategy, including the ambition to increase total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
These investments will be used in such matters as tackling climate change, and investment in new technologies – with cleantech and AI getting a mention.
In terms of AI, the government has talked about this before. It launched its first National Artificial Intelligence Strategy in September. The government was looking to seize the potential of modern technology to improve people’s lives and solve global challenges such as climate change and public health.
Many UK tech startups have sensed an opportunity in the areas of climate change or cleantech. In a variety of scoops, eWeek UK has recently discovered ReforestPay’s tree-loving launch; carbon insurer Kita; sustainability data platform Supernova; and Expect’s decarbonisation management platform.
The government talked about its ambitions to be a “science superpower” again, and the Spending Review committed “record levels” of investment in the UK’s research base over the next three years, with R&D spending set to increase by £5 billion to £20 billion per annum by 2024-2025.
As mentioned before in the October budget news, this is down from the previous commitment in March of £22 billion per year.
Today’s news includes full funding for EU programmes, for which £6.8 billion has been allocated to support the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training and Fusion for Energy. If the UK is “unable to associate to Horizon Europe”, the funding allocated to Horizon association will go to UK government R&D programmes, including those to support new international partnerships.
A “significant” proportion of the budget has been allocated to UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), which will receive over £25 billion across the next three years, reaching over £8.8 billion in 2024-2025. This will include an increase in funding for core Innovate UK programmes by 66% to £1.1 billion in 2024-2025.
The UK Space Agency’s budget will also grow to over £600 million by 2024-2025, recognising the fact that the space sector adds nearly £16 billion to UK GDP while underpinning complementary parts of the economy including finance, logistics and agriculture.
eWeek UK has already watched that space – and in September we analysed the National Space Strategy as the government sought to grow its influence in the final frontier.