Blue skies research produces the biggest economic pay-offs in the long run, says a report published by the Russell Group of 20 leading research universities.
The report looks at a wide range of economic impacts from spin-out companies and licences to consultancies and collaborations between universities and businesses. A sample of 66 breakthrough discoveries at Russell Group institutions analysed in the report have generated combined wealth of almost £2bn. (1)
"It is clear that a majority of highly successful licences and spin-out companies have emerged from long-term curiosity-driven research," concludes the report.
"Moreover, our analysis demonstrates that successful commercialisation requires sustained long-term investment in research, often over many years or even decades."
The report, The economic impact of research conducted in Russell Group universities, comes at a time when universities are acutely concerned about the possibility of future cutbacks in research funding as the government seeks large savings in public expenditure.
Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, says: "Public investment in research at Russell Group universities has resulted in far-reaching benefits which have been shared by the UK's businesses, the government, and by the taxpayer.
"This report demonstrates that investment in leading research is not a luxury to be set to one side in times of increased stringency. Instead, it is an indispensible component of the UK's economic competitiveness, and the key to its future growth.
"We very much hope that our universities will not have to sustain further cuts in next week's Budget. The publicly-funded research they carry out is essential to the Government's ambitions for world-leading innovation.
"At first sight it might seem that so-called applied research would deliver quick wins and more tangible benefits to society. In fact there shouldn't be a big distinction between the two types of research. As Lord Porter, a former president of the Royal Society remarked: 'there are two types of research - applied and not-yet-applied'. The long-term impact of the best curiosity-driven fundamental research can be revolutionary," she said.
The report demonstrates how:
Some of the commercialisation case studies presented in the report show spectacular financial returns but in many cases the report also found evidence of wider benefits to society.
World-class university research is an invaluable resource supporting the growth of new and existing knowledge-intensive businesses in the UK and worldwide.
This report demonstrates the important impact of research on developments in key sectors of the economy such as biotechnology, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, new energies and creative industries. It also demonstrates how research underpins the high-level skills and development of human capital which will be so crucial to the success of businesses in the future.
The economic impact of research conducted in Russell Group universities is available on www.Russellgroup.ac.uk
Download the report (PDF version)
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Notes for editors