How the UK Is Leading the Way in Science and Tech Investment – Business Insider

The UK has a long history of innovation in science and technology.
From decoding the structure of DNA, to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of graphene in 2004 to the creation of the western world’s first licensed COVID-19 vaccine in 2020, the country is already a leader in the field. Over the next eight years, it will further cement its reputation as a science and technology superpower. A core objective for the UK between now and 2030 is “sustaining strategic advantage” in both fields, according to a government report , with quantum computing, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, and engineering biology as key priorities.
“Scientific endeavor and technological leadership are vital to the UK as they drive innovation, which powers the entire economy for the benefit of society as a whole,” Tim Kay, acting director of technology at the UK Department for International Trade (DIT), said. 
A focus on these strategies will boost the country’s innovation standing: The UK government is set to increase investment into research and development to almost $30 billion a year as part of this initiative. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body that offers funding across areas including engineering, environmental sciences, and astronomy, made more than 17,000 research and innovation awards in 2020-21.
The UK is well-placed to capitalize on its status as a science superpower. It ranks highly in the global science and technology arena, coming fourth in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2021 Global Innovation Index of high-income countries, delivering “peak innovation performance” (and coming ahead of Germany, Japan, and China). It’s also among the best in class in terms of long-term economic growth, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report.
In 2020, the UK was rated among the top three countries globally in terms of research into COVID-19, after the US and China, with scientists providing unprecedented access to data to tackle the global crisis, according to the OECD. Academically, the UK is a global leader, home to four of the world’s top 10 universities, and it also has an international network to help researchers work with innovative businesses across the globe.
There are plans to go even further. The UK Innovation Strategy, published last summer, details the country’s ambitions to become a global hub for innovation by 2035, using rankings such as the Global Innovation Index to measure progress. The UK has Europe’s best venture capital markets, the strategy noted, and along with the public investment noted above, private finance is flowing into the sector — and fast.
VC investment in UK startups and scaleups reached $39.8 billion in 2021, almost two and a half times the amount invested in 2020. There are now more unicorns — technology-driven businesses valued at over $1 billion — in the UK than there are in Germany, France, and Sweden combined.
“The UK is a mature ecosystem that’s growing like an extremely nascent one,” wrote George Windsor, head of insights at TechNation, which compiled the “astonishing” figures. Cybersecurity firm Snyk is now valued at $8.6 billion after a Series F funding round in September, while visual AI firm Tractable became a unicorn in 2021.
Indeed, the next 100 unicorns will come from deeptech — companies from industries such as robotics or quantum computing — according to TechNation. In fintech, banking app Revolut’s Series E round totaled $800 million, and it is set to attend Mobile World Congress this year among the world’s biggest names in payment technology. And there are 153 potential unicorns of the future in the UK that are currently valued at more than $250 million each, according to the data.
The Council for Science and Technology is working closely with the government to help innovators “access the right type of finance at the right time,” according to a letter from the UK prime minister Boris Johnson. George Freeman, the UK’s minister for Science, Research, and Innovation, has been tasked with analyzing how the country can best unlock further investment for the most revolutionary companies in the field.
Added to all of this, the country also has an attractive tax environment for companies creating innovations and intellectual property, with firms able to claim tax relief under the UK Patent Box initiative.
Kay added: “With large and growing investment in R&D and Innovation, some of the best universities in the world, and the strongest VC environment in Europe, the UK is rapidly establishing itself as a science and technology superpower.”
Connect with the UK Department for International Trade for professional assistance on locating a new business in the UK, expanding your existing facilities, or for help finding innovative UK products and services.
This post was created by Insider Studios with the UK Department for International Trade.
 

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