An innovation-driven economy will help the UK become more healthy, green and economically resilient, says the Russell Group

06 June 2024

The Russell Group has called for the next UK Government to harness the power of the UK’s research-intensive universities to help improve public services, deliver net zero and drive economic growth. 

In its newly-relaunched manifesto, A Bright Future, the Russell Group sets out the ways in which innovation and skills generated by UK universities can play a vital role in helping to improve healthcare across the country, deliver world-beating green technologies, secure the UK’s place in the world andultimately, contribute to a thriving economy. 

Analysis by London Economics earlier this year showed that research and innovation activity at Russell Group universities alone contributes £37.6bn to the UK economy in a year, and supports over 250,000 jobs. The Russell Group now says its universities are ready to do more to rejuvenate business, improve healthcare services, and tackle the climate emergency – working together with the next Government to maximise the sector’s potential. 

For every £1 of public money invested in Russell Group university research, more than £8.50 is generated for the UK economy. To capitalise on this return on investment, the Russell Group is calling for Government to commit at least 3% of GPD to research and development, to further strengthen the economy and make the UK a leader in R&D within the G7 

In particular, the group calls for a focus on supporting innovative start-ups and emerging technologies, to tackle the UK’s productivity challenge and to help nurture research breakthroughs into large-scale, thriving businesses. 

Drawing on universities’ impact on the economy, skills, health, the environment, and the UK’s global standing, the Russell Group’s manifesto suggests a number of ways that the next Government could best advance an innovation-led nation, including: 

  • An early commitment to FP10, the successor to Horizon Europe from 2028, to build on the benefits of Horizon association and harness the advantages of the world’s largest research and innovation programme. 
  • A new ‘Spark Fund’ dedicated to supporting hundreds of new deep-tech university spinouts, delivered by the British Business Bank and reforms to pension investments to deliver an additional £1bn of public and private investment by 2030. 
  • A new UK Research Security Fund to help universities protect their world-class research and counter foreign interference. 
  • A cross-sector medical training taskforce, to deliver the goals of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, secure a pipeline of home-grown health and social care skills, and cut waiting lists. 
  • A Green Boost for tried and tested R&D programmes, supporting research breakthroughs that can cut energy bills and realise effective net zero initiatives. 
  • A renewed commitment to the principles and objectives of the International Education Strategy to provide stability in student migration policies. 
  • A Bright Future also highlights how the next Government will need to address the sector’s current funding challenges, to develop a sustainable model in which universities can continue to deliver a broad range of high-level skills training– in everything from artificial intelligence to the creative industries – to build the workforce of the future. 

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: 

Research at Russell Group universities provides an excellent return on investment. Pursuing an innovation-driven approach will be an effective way for the next Government to achieve the economic growth which is so needed for the UK.  

“Our universities have a global reputation for teaching and research, and we want to make sure that the benefits of these activities are felt across local, national and international communities – whether it’s transforming career opportunities for young people, developing breakthrough health technologies that improve treatments and waiting times, or fostering positive global relationships to improve the UK’s security. 

As we head towards a general election, we call on the next Government to take an ambitious approach and make the most of what universities offer, to help create positive change for the UK’s future”. 

Professor Chris Day CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University and Chair of the Russell Group said:

“I am very proud to be part of the UK university sector, which punches well above its weight on the global stage in education, research and soft power. Our experience in high-level teaching and our innovative approach to research will be valuable tools for the next Government as they look to establish a healthier, more sustainable and more resilient nation.  

“In the past there has been positive cross-party recognition of the value of the UK’s R&D sector, and the need for robust and predictable investment to maximise its potential. I hope this will continue with the next Government, and we look forward to working with them closely to utilise our strengths and tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time.” 

Download and read the Russell Group manifesto, A Bright Future, in full.

A Bright Future

A Russell Group manifesto for the UK

Download here

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