Go back

Alok Sharma promises ‘more strategic approach’ to R&D

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Imbalance between regions has taken on ‘fresh urgency’ during coronavirus crisis, says business secretary

The UK business secretary has promised a “more strategic approach to supporting research and innovation” to address inequalities in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry’s 2020 annual conference, Alok Sharma reiterated the government’s commitment to “build back better through levelling up across the country”, adding that the success of our economy “has long been poorly spread”.

This imbalance has taken on “fresh urgency” during the coronavirus crisis, he told business leaders, “with our already fragile cities and towns taking the greatest hit from the pandemic”.

“We will turbocharge our regions, to enable them to become global hubs in their own right,” he said.

Sharma cited the North East of England, which he said could become the “home of choice for companies delivering carbon capture and storage”.

While the “brilliant life sciences sector will be propelled to even greater heights from Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh”.

“As we broaden the geography of our economy, we will help you widen and deepen the range of businesses that comprise it,” he said.

“With a more strategic approach to supporting research and innovation in areas where the UK has the potential to both lead and change the world.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Sharma said it was “vital” that scientists and engineers, including those working on coronavirus, should “come together in labs and workplaces across the country”, during the second lockdown, which is set to come into force on 5 November.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, welcomed the political support and “a vision of a low carbon, high-skilled, high tech future powered by enterprise”.

“This is a vision business shares,” she said, but added that “actions will speak louder than words”.

She said: “Fast further financial support is essential to bridge to growth. And more is needed to create, not just protect jobs.”