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RG Manifesto

Universities urge Government to deliver healthier, more sustainable UK

Published on: 9 November 2023

The Russell Group has published its manifesto setting out its vision for a bright future powered by research, innovation, and future skills development.

The Russell Group, which is chaired by Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Day, has urged the next UK Government to commit to world-leading R&D investment to harness the power of world-leading research-intensive universities and strengthen the UK’s economy and resilience. 

Russell Group analysis shows that an additional £4 billion in public R&D funding per year by 2029/30 is needed to sustainably meet a commitment of at least 3% of GDP invested in R&D. A stretch target of 3.5% GDP investment in R&D by 2034 would bring the UK closer to competitors in the OECD. 

The analysis forms part of the Russell Group’s manifesto A Bright Future released today (9 November 2023), detailing some of the key areas where universities and the next Government can work together to support future research and development and skills and workforce training in the UK.

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University

‘Bright and prosperous’ future

Professor Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University and Chair of the Russell Group, said: “Our universities, the research we do and the students we educate, will be key to enabling a future Government to deliver a healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient United Kingdom, underpinned by a thriving innovation-driven economy.

“This manifesto clearly demonstrates the potential that exists in universities to deliver for the UK, from providing a pipeline of skilled healthcare workers for the NHS to accelerating progress towards Net Zero.

“Previous governments have recognised the value of UK R&D and the need to invest in research excellence, and we have seen at first hand the benefits of this investment, not least during the pandemic, when university research was not only at the heart of the development of the Covid vaccine, saving many thousands of lives, but also played a critical part in supporting the nation’s economic recovery post-pandemic.

“We look forward to working closely with the next Government and utilising our strength in R&D to provide the solutions that will build a bright and prosperous future for the UK.”

A Bright Future outlines how research-intensive universities, such as Newcastle University, already add significant value to the North East and the UK as a whole, but are keen to do even more to drive sustainable economic growth, create new jobs and boost public services. 

Manifesto’s key aims

With proposals covering the economy, skills, health, the environment, and the UK as a global leader for research, ideas contained in the manifesto are designed to help create opportunities to advance knowledge and innovation, including:

• An additional £80m investment each year in Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) supplements, which underpins universities’ core innovation activities, that would deliver a return of nearly £1bn to our economy and society

• A new £400m ‘Spark Fund’ to support hundreds of new deep-tech spinouts from universities. This could be delivered by the British Business Bank making investments in every nation and region of the UK, and through reforms to pension rules to help funds invest in high-potential spin-outs and start-ups, to deliver an additional £1bn of public and private investment by 2030

• A new medical training taskforce to ensure a strategic, collaborative approach to NHS workforce planning to train more doctors and other healthcare professionals, and help cut waiting lists

• A Green Boost for tried and tested R&D programmes, supporting universities working on breakthroughs which can cut energy bills and encourage businesses and universities to work together on initiatives that support the drive towards Net Zero

• The establishment of a UK Research Security Fund to enhance university efforts to protect their world-class research and counter foreign interference

• An ambitious new 2030 International Education Strategy which includes a supportive visa system alongside the current Graduate visa, to help universities continue attracting the best global talent to the UK. Every additional 1% market share for international students could boost the UK economy by more than £5bn a year.

Alongside these recommendations, the paper also highlights the urgent need for a sustainable funding model for higher education to futureproof skills development and provide a fair deal for students. 

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: “Research being carried out at Russell Group universities is delivering breakthroughs that are creating skilled jobs, giving the UK a competitive advantage in new fields like AI and giving the NHS new treatments and technologies to help keep us healthy.

“Supporting quality R&D and innovation and being ambitious for our research sector will be crucial to building a bright future for the UK. Get this right, and the next Government would be taking a huge step towards tackling problems like growing NHS waiting lists.

“A long-term commitment to be a global leader in R&D investment would harness the potential of our world-leading research-intensive universities and maximise the positive impact they have in every corner of the UK. To make this a reality we need sustained public funding that will leverage significant wider private investment, to take us to 3% of GDP and beyond.”

Case study: Accelerating the UK’s transition to electrification

Newcastle University is leading the creation of the Electrification Process Innovation Centre (EPIC), a collaboration between academia and industry - an innovative concept aimed at addressing the enormous opportunities created by electrification.

EPIC is a home for R&D and innovation in the manufacturing processes for batteries, renewable energy, power electronics, machines, and drives and a centre for the generation and delivery of higher and further education programmes for industries involved in electrification. 

The University already leads the National Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centre (DER-IC) project, the Institute of Electrification and Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (IESAM), the National Battery Training and Skills Academy and is also home to the Faraday Institution’s only regional office, all with a focus on various aspects of electrification. EPIC brings these activities together, coordinating innovation in advanced manufacturing across the energy, transport, and industrial sectors.  

DER-IC is a national programme that helps industry develop the supply chains for power electronics, machines, and drives (PEMD) for all aspects of electrification. The National Battery Training and Skills Academy develops the skilled workforce for the Battery manufacturing companies delivered in partnership with New College Durham.

Co-funded by UKRI and Innovate UK, IESAM works across the region’s universities and the North East Institute of Technology to provide a common curriculum for electrification skills aimed at students, apprentices and college lecturers. Crucially, IESAM also works with industry to ensure its programme are aligned with industry needs.

EPIC is being developed in collaboration with the North East Mayoral Combined Authority and industry partners including Nissan, AESC, Siemens, Turntide and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. 

You can find out more about EPIC here


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