For many years now the world’s most advanced economies have been pumping money exponentially into Research and Development (R & D). China, for example, devoted 2.21 trillion Yuan ($322bn) to science and technology expenditure in 2019, an increase of 12.5% over the previous year and equivalent to 2.3% of the entire Chinese economy (GDP). Even prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, China let it be known that its short-term intention was to increase that ratio to 2.5%.
North America, which spent $582bn on R & D in 2018, was already some way past that level of investment at 2.83% of GDP. While this figure compares favourably with the 2.38% average for the 37 nations that make up the OECD, it is worth noting that South Korea spent 4.5% of GDP in 2018 in their relentlessly successful efforts to move up the world’s technological pecking order.
No independent facts or figures currently exist to show what effect COVID-19 has had on R & D budgets, but it is seems safe to assume that the pace will have picked up rather than slowed down – especially in the areas of medicine, medical systems, public health and life sciences.
No advanced nation can afford to be left behind in this race, and that includes the UK which has set itself the R & D target of 2.4% of GDP by 2027. We know that the UK Research & Innovation Council is working closely with Government, but it will take everyone pulling together – and that means universities, charities, public sector bodies and individual businesses – if that promise is to be delivered. The prize will be a huge boost to the UK economy whilst failure to make material progress would amount to economic suicide.
UnitBirwelco Group’s contribution to the effort is to work closely with various top tier universities to develop our product portfolio to adapt to the changing world of engineering and the energy transition. We are specifically interested in the use of Hydrogen as a source of energy and vital to the UK’s aim of being net zero by 2050. We have recently appointed two masters’ students to help with our research and product development and another to work on a specific project. It’s a start.
Like most UK businesses, there is a growing awareness that we must continue to develop and evolve if we are to have a profitable future. Standing still is not an option.