Chi Onwurah MP has backed a damning assessment published by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) this week on the Government’s lack of support for science in the face of increasing global competition from China.
Commenting on the report Innovation in China: the rise of Chinese inventors in the production of knowledge, Ms Onwurah – the shadow Minister for Innovation and Science – said:
“The evidence is piling up. This government’s decision to reduce investment in science and engineering is a strategic error. When will they realise that?”
The IFS said that the current economic climate should not prevent further investment science. The IFS noted that China was increasing its support for science and innovation as part of its ambition to join the ranks of the world’s most innovative countries. Comparing this to the UK, where spending on science has been cut in real terms, the authors concluded that:
“Failing to invest sufficiently in science and skills can be short sighted. The impact of such spending occurs in the long run, in the form of higher productivity and economic growth. Being able to compete with China in 10 years time requires investment in skills and research today.”
China’s investment in research and development as a proportion of its GDP has been growing rapidly over the past decade and is now approaching the same level as the UK. Business R&D levels in the UK are lower than many similar Western economies, with the latest figures (from 2007) indicating that it is in decline.
Earlier this year the Royal Society’s report Knowledge, Network and Nations showed the UK falling behind other countries’ investment in science. The Government has since backed away from any commitment to meeting the “Lisbon 2020 target” of 3% investment in R&D that it had previously publicly accepted.