Resourcing R&D: The who, what and where of UK innovation

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Expert Opinion
February 6, 2023

When it comes to the resources and partners that respondents to Ayming’s recent UK innovation survey are using to carry out R&D, the results are evenly spread, reflecting the wide range of services available to businesses in the UK.

Ayming’s inaugural UK Innovation Barometer examines the current state of the UK’s innovation landscape, as well as considering the various reforms that have the potential to influence businesses operating across the technology, manufacturing, food & beverage, construction, financial services, and pharmaceutical industries.

In November 2022, Ayming conducted a survey of 200 senior innovation, finance, tax, and CEOs/MDs in the UK. Survey respondents are all at CXO, director or head of department level, and evenly split across SMEs (companies with 250 employees or fewer) and larger companies.

AI goes mainstream

In terms of what people are using for R&D, the most popular option – with 39 per cent of respondents selecting it – is artificial intelligence.

Mark Smith, Partner of R&D Incentives and Grants at Ayming UK remarks, “The popularity of artificial intelligence as a resource to facilitate R&D is a reflection of the technology reaching a level of maturity that has allowed it to enter the mainstream. The basic hurdles in the technology have been cleared and now businesses are asking themselves how they can take full advantage.”

The growing prevalence of artificial intelligence technology within the R&D process represents the essential cycle of R&D, whereby earlier innovations breed new and greater innovations in turn.

A collaborative effort

In terms of who firms are working with to carry out their R&D, one-third of respondents are collaborating with universities. Raising this number is an important objective for the CBI, which believes universities and businesses could be cooperating better to stimulate greater innovation in the UK.

Charlotte Kelly, Policy Advisor in Innovation at the CBI, comments that “In order for the UK to reach the level of innovation required to stimulate real growth, businesses and universities must work more closely together. As the home to some of the best universities in the world, the UK presents valuable opportunities for businesses that are able and willing to collaborate.”

And when it comes to collaboration, the manufacturing sector outstrips other industries, with 37 per cent of respondents identifying collaborating with partner organisations as an avenue for R&D, ten points higher than the average. This is likely due to the fact that the industry by its nature is reliant on partnerships with other parties across the supply chain.

Benjamin Craig, Associate Director of R&D Tax Incentives at Ayming UK comments, “The manufacturing sector is uniquely placed to innovate collaboratively, driven by its need to work with third parties up and down the entire supply chain. No manufacturers these days are responsible for the entire process from raw material selection to consumer product, which can make the process of innovation more challenging.”

Moving abroad

As for the ‘where’, 69 per cent of businesses have moved R&D activity abroad in the last year and 70 per cent plan to do so next year. The US and Germany are the most popular destinations for moving R&D, taking 28 and 27 per cent of the share of responses respectively.

To discover the insights in full, click the button to download Ayming’s UK Innovation Barometer.

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