Government not doing enough for the science-based economy
17 July 2013
The UK’s science-based economy needs greater support from the
Government to grow, according to a survey of science-based companies
by Lab Innovations.
The survey found that 62% of directors and senior decision makers
from over 112 scientific UK organisations say the UK Government
isn’t doing enough to support them.
The list of government actions the companies call for include:
greater investment to support key research projects, helping attract
overseas investment in R&D, providing tax incentives for research,
reducing taxes on manufacturing, science and technology companies
and to allow more genuine foreign workers and students into the UK.
The 112 companies who participated in the survey cover the broad
spectrum of science business sectors from biotech businesses,
pharmaceutical companies, life science and environmental
organisations through to research institutions plus healthcare,
food, drink, chemical and petrochemical companies with extensive R&D
The research suggests these science-based organisations are
playing a crucial part of the UK economy. For instance, 38% of those
taking part employ over 100 people, with 17 companies employing over
500. The vast majority, are exporters (86%), with on average 35% of
sales going to overseas markets. While two thirds of companies are
focused on selling into the EU and over a third (36%) to North
America, many are pushing into vital emerging markets such as China
(31%), India (21%) and Africa (16%).
According to the research, recent developments such as the
weakness of sterling, have helped 16% to export more, however those
surveyed are facing some major barriers which are inhibiting their
success. The biggest challenge is a lack of finance for R&D, which
is cited by 35%; a lack of finance for investment is also a major
barrier afflicting 27%. Over one in five (23%) say too much red tape
and regulation is holding them back, a similar number (22%) say
growth is being inhibited by a lack of a skilled workforce.
While the Government has introduced initiatives to free up
finance and talks about the importance of science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM), only 25% of the companies
questioned believe the Government is genuine in its desire to
rebalance the economy away from finance and services, and towards
more STEM based activity. Almost a third (31%) are unsure how
serious the Government is with regards to this policy, and the
largest group (44%) do not believe this is a genuine objective at
The companies studied face plenty of market opportunity, barely
6% say a lack of overseas demand is an issue, and few find it
difficult to target overseas markets, but with almost one in five
(19%) worried about even financing day-to-day activities, there is
clearly an argument that greater finance is required if these
important players in the UK economy are to reach their potential.
Commenting on the results of this survey, Jake Morrison, Lab
Innovations event manager, says: “The UK has a tremendous scientific
reputation, and the companies participating in the survey are
thriving and extremely optimistic. Their mindset is on growth, and
both within the UK and beyond.
“However there is clearly a lot of untapped potential within
these companies which they want to unlock. They are also highly
dependent on R&D and future growth will only come from both research
and expansion which requires investment.”