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UK’s fragmented approach to R&D is unfit for an interconnected age


Deep changes are needed to make funding more diverse and less risk-averse, says Simon Harwood

Nothing creates demand for revolutionary thinking and big answers quite like a crisis. The machinery of government, however, is organised along divisions of interest—business in one corner, defence in another, environment somewhere else. This means that multidisciplinary ideas at best grow in a silo and at worst have no route to making an impact on society.

Government departments’ focused knowledge and agendas are geared towards risk-averse decisions. In this system, only limited, piecemeal research projects appear to make sense, win funding and get a chance to prove their viability. Cross-cutting, high-risk but high-potential projects look remote from common sense and eco-nomically dubious. 

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