A new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (www.hepi.ac.uk) sheds light on the inadequacies in the UK’s efforts to ‘level up’ research and innovation across regions, drawing comparisons with Germany and the United States.
Regional research capacity: what role in levelling up? (HEPI Report 168) is authored by Jonathan Adams, Jonathan Grant, David Smith and Martin Szomszor and reveals critical insights into the disparities and shortcomings in current investment strategies.
The key findings include:
- Inadequate investment and limited impact: The report concludes that the UK’s investment in research and innovation falls short, lacking the scale seen in Germany and the sustained commitment observed in the United States. Furthermore, the investment has not been effectively linked to enhancing research manpower capacity.
- Regional economic imbalance: OECD data highlight a significant regional economic imbalance in the UK compared to the US and Germany. Despite disparities in regional research activity, the average academic research performance remains similar across regions.
- City-centric research capacity: Analyses shifting the focus from regions to distance reveal that research capacity is concentrated in major conurbations, aligning with the economic influence of cities. The ‘golden triangle’ around London does not significantly outperform other regions in research quality or relative GDP enhancement.
- Funding disparities and institutional bias: While research quality is evenly distributed, funding disparities are not simply regional; they reflect a bias towards specific institutions. The concentration of research activity within regions is masked by regional analyses, and regional research networks are underdeveloped.
The report emphasises the need for:
- greater and sustained investment outside the science budget;
- focus on people and regional networks rather than exclusive elite institutions; and
- long-term commitment to achieve true levelling-up.
Jonathan Adams, the Chief Scientist at the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ at Clarivate™ and lead author of the report, commented:
True levelling-up will require far greater investment that must come from outside the science budget. It has to be about people and regional networks, not just about prestige projects in elite institutions. Truly sustainable transformation has to be maintained over very long periods.
Nick Hillman, the Director of HEPI, said:
It is a certainty that, at the forthcoming UK general election, all the major parties will be promising economic growth, a high-tech future and less sharp regional imbalances. This timely report shows how to convert such rhetoric into meaningful action.
Notes for Editors
1. HEPI was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. HEPI is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan. The organisation is funded by organisations and higher education institutions that wish to support vibrant policy discussions as well as through events. HEPI is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity.
2. Clarivate is a leading global information services provider. We connect people and organisations to intelligence they can trust to transform their perspective, their work and our world. Clarivate’s subscription and technology-based solutions are coupled with deep domain expertise and cover the areas of Academia and Government, Life Sciences and Healthcare and Intellectual Property. For more information, please visit www.clarivate.com.