We’ve been told by Government officials that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will not be reinstating the Research and Development (R&D) Scoreboard, citing budgetary concerns.
The R&D Scoreboard was a leading source of information and analysis on the UK’s private-sector R&D activity. CaSE had registered our concern with BIS and worked with a number of our members to try and convince the Government to change its mind. When we’re trying to increase private-sector investment it’s important that we can see whether the Government’s strategy is working or not.
We’d found BIS officials to be helpful and engaging in discussions over the Scoreboard, so we’re both surprised and disappointed that they have confirmed they won’t be reversing a hastily-taken and short-sighted decision.
Below you can see a summary of some of the arguments that we, along with our members, put to BIS. We intend to revisit this issue in future.
Policy Evaluation & Benchmarking
- Many Government initiatives are aimed at increasing the level of R&D activity in the UK, often in specific sectors. It is important that the Government, with the aid of the wider science and engineering community, has a way to evaluate the success of such initiatives and decide where further action is required.
- The Scoreboard also allows the Government to benchmark UK R&D against activity elsewhere in the world and identify historical data trends, such as the share of R&D in different sectors taking place in different economies at different times. Without resources such as the R&D Scoreboard, such benchmarking and evaluation is much more difficult.
- Such evaluation and benchmarking would be consistent with the Government’s pledge to “constantly benchmark the UK against best practice around the world, while expecting to be judged against its own benchmarks“.
Sectoral support within industry
- We agree that difficult economic times call for more inventive and braver Government. However, without the benefit of metrics such as the R&D Scoreboard, the kind of policy-making becomes more hazardous.
- When Government is making decisions affecting a dynamic and changing environment, such as the UK innovation landscape, up-to-date information is important. R&D investment provides a surrogate for actual employment and innovation activity that is much closer to real-time than other measures such patents or publications. For instance, it would alert Government to undisclosed retrenchment in R&D by major UK companies.
- Accurate and up-to-date data on sectoral strengths within the UK allow public bodies such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, the Technology Strategy Board, and UK Trade and Investment to not only guide their own activities, but to highlight the UK’s strengths when attracting investment from abroad. This is also true for private bodies, particularly when the UK arms of global companies are making the case for the importance of UK R&D investment. The value to UK plc of this kind of investment, although difficult to quantify, may well exceed the cost of producing the Scoreboard.
Quality and impartiality of data
- R&D Scoreboard data is based upon hard financial reporting data taken from company annual report and accounts, and has previously been delivered with a near-perfect target zero per cent error rate.