Pandemic effect ‘likely to increase R&D commitment long term’
14 Apr 2020
The severity of the impact from the coronavirus pandemic could delay recent Government promises to massively boost research and development expenditure, says a leading intellectual property expert.
However, says Karl Barnfather, chairman of European intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers [pictured], the global outbreak is likely to foster greater commitment to R&D support overall.
“Just as World War Two is remembered for inventions such as penicillin and radar technology, it is highly likely that 2020 will be remembered for technologies developed to help fight pandemic disease outbreaks – isolation units, mobility tracking tools and many more. UK innovators are very much part of this fight and stand to reap the benefits of this effort in the future,” he commented.
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed that investment in R&D in the UK has continued to rise, with a new record of £37.1 billion attained in 2018. This represents an increase of 6.6% on the previous year.
Statistics show a small improvement in the amount of money invested in R&D as a proportion of UK Gross Domestic Product. The amount of money invested represented 1.71% of GDP in 2018, but still trailed that of countries such as Germany and Sweden, where the level of investment was more than 3% of GDP.
Said Barnfather: “The headline figures highlight the strides that have been taken to develop key areas of science such as digital tech, AI and biotech innovation in the UK economy. However, these figures must be viewed in the context of Covid-19 and the immense challenges that society is now facing.
“The recent Budget announcements were very promising indeed, with the Government promising to step up R&D expenditure; doubling investment to £22 billion and opening a central research centre, modelled on DARPA in the US.”
He assessed the investment should help to close the gap that exists between the UK and some other countries but acknowledged the severity of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means such investments could now be delayed.