UK launches plan to capitalise on science and technology breakthroughs

·2 min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at 10 Downing Street in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would lead a new drive to capitalise on scientific and technological breakthroughs made in Britain with a programme to direct research into areas that will benefit the public good.

Johnson will chair a group set up to "provide strategic direction on the use of science and technology as the tools to tackle great societal challenges, level up across the country and boost prosperity around the world", his office said.

Seeking strategic gains for post-Brexit Britain, the plan looks to build on the success of the country's coronavirus vaccine programme and identify other areas where the research and development sector can benefit from government funding.

“From discovery to delivery, our vaccination programme has proven what the UK can achieve at scale and at speed," Johnson said in a statement.

“With the right direction, pace and backing, we can breathe life into many more scientific and technological breakthroughs that transform the lives of people across the UK and the world."

The government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, will head a new public body whose role will be to implement the strategy.

Beyond COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Britain wants to use its research capability to secure some of the economic benefits of a shift toward greener technology, although competition from other nations is intense.

The majority of research and development spending in Britain is funded by the private sector, and overall investment in 2018 was 1.731% of GDP according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development data - below the 2.419% OECD average.

Since leaving the European Union, the government has announced plans to increase its spending on R&D.

It plans to invest 14.9 billion pounds ($20.58 billion) in 2021/22, rising to 22 billion by 2024/25, and has committed to raise total R&D investment to 2.4% of economic output by 2027.

($1 = 0.7242 pounds)

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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