In today’s economic climate it’s difficult for us to see how large sums can be spent on research and development. Investment in innovation seems illogical when many businesses find it hard enough to finance themselves as it is. Is it right to slow the funding of STEM and engineering innovation when the economy is performing poorly?
Funding of Engineering Innovation
The Office for National Statistics has estimated that our ‘total expenditure on R&D in 2015 represented 1.68% of GDP, an increase from 1.66% in 2014′.
This is currently our most recent estimate, and it represents spending of £31.6 billion. The product groups with the largest R&D expenditure in 2015 were:
- pharmaceuticals (£4.2 billion)
- motor vehicles and parts (£2.7 billion)
- computer programming and information service activities (£2.4 billion)
- aerospace (£1.7 billion)
- miscellaneous business activities (£1.1 billion)
- machinery and equipment (£1.0 billion)
This helps us to see that companies can still invest in R&D even during periods of austerity. In recent years the effects of recessions and governmental policy have influenced the economy. Some research grants are not as valuable as they might have once been. The future of the government’s science budget remains unclear as we approach Brexit. We have already seen the British Pound crash overnight following the results of the referendum.
Using Engineering Innovation to Influence the Economy
Although the state of our economy changes with time, the percentage of our GDP that we invest in engineering shouldn’t. The nation’s view of STEM overall is good, however no current member of the Cabinet or Permanent Secretary has a science or engineering degree. There are no educated politicians representing STEM with real understanding so we must allow the facts to speak for themselves. Investment in engineering innovation creates money by boosting the economy through business and taxation. Throughout history, innovation has made Britain the technological and economic superpower that it is. With the invention of the automobile the government began to tax the sale of new vehicles, use of the roads and sale of fuel.
With our strong background in innovation in STEM we need to ensure that Britain continues to grow with society and drive the changes that shape the modern world. The recent boom in smartphones and data sharing generated a huge demand for software developers and computer scientists to ensure the population devices run correctly. This technological advancement connected the vast majority of the world with little over a decade’s worth of research.
The engineering innovation of the future is not far away. Researchers are currently developing ways of producing graphene, which is likely to be the missing link for producing stronger materials, lighter structures and faster computers. These areas are improving exponentially and are due another breakthrough. With graphene as the prime example, research in the field needs to have funding and incentive.
Education in STEM Subjects
Through the top universities in the country, the leading engineers and scientists learn their fields. It is the our responsibility to ensure the next generation is inspired to study and become the future’s experts. This is only made possible with funding from the government’s science budget which is under constant threat due to the unstable economy.
Without engineering innovation, we cannot go forwards into the future. We therefore must continue to fund research and encourage more people to stay linked to research in STEM subjects after finishing studies. The fact that the economy is stagnating should not affect our attitudes since the only way to boost the economy comes from engineering production, in which our country excels. If we give STEM the attention it deserves we can continue to lead innovation with the next wave of world changing technology.