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81% want innovation funding to benefit wider society

81% of people say the government should invest in ideas that will have the widest social impact, according to innovation foundation Nesta.

Following Boris Johnson’s commitment to double its innovation spending to an estimated £18bn in this parliament, Nesta commissioned a survey of nearly 4,000 adults to ask how they thought this money would be best spent.

The results suggested that the UK public wants to see a social return for taxpayer investments, not just an economic one and see the government think more deeply at how innovation funding is allocated and who benefits.

People also said that innovation directed at solving social problems was key, even if the investment doesn’t necessarily have an economic impact with 65% supporting this approach. And, 67% said innovation spending should focus on making everywhere more prosperous even if that means slower growth for some.

Nesta recommends that the government should:

  • Direct research and development funding to tackle the challenges that really matter to people, like climate change, inequality and poor health.
  • Increase the impact of innovation at a local level by devolving more of the UK’s research and development budget to cities and regions, spreading the benefits of innovation across the UK.
  • Become more transparent about how public money is spent on innovation and how these decisions are made, to justify to the public how innovation policy is improving people’s lives.
  • Involve the public in meaningful conversations about the future and the role of innovation so that everyone can play a part in designing their futures.

Jen Rae, Nesta’s head of UK Innovation Policy, said: ‘As the government again considers who is responsible for what in Westminster, the public are clearly saying the UK lacks a long-term vision for the future. They want action on widening inequality, struggling public services and the global climate crisis and want the Government to prioritise these challenges in its plans for innovation spending.

‘There is no clear picture of what the Government spends on R&D and innovation, so it’s no wonder that the public feel they are in the dark. It is essential that the new Chancellor sets out in the forthcoming Budget how the UK is directing its spending on innovation to justify to the public how innovation is improving everyone’s lives.’

Read the report here.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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