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End the tyranny of R over D to boost UK productivity

Government and universities’ obsession with the cutting edge does nothing to meet most businesses’ needs, says Marcus Gibson.

The additional £4.7 billion in R&D spending by 2020-21 announced in November by chancellor Philip Hammond—in a bid to boost productivity ahead of Brexit and weaker GDP growth—should have gladdened the hearts of university researchers. Whether the money will have the economic impact Hammond hopes for, however, is more debatable.

In spite of the good intentions, the core problem of UK productivity is that government policy focuses excessively on research spending and too little on product and process development.

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