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Industry welcomes new R&D and visa commitments

Experts have welcomed government announcements to increase R&D spending and allow international students to remain in the UK for two years after graduating to find a job.

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In its latest Spending Review for 2020-21, the government re-committed to working towards the target of investing at least 2.4 per cent of GDP on research and development by 2027.

The UK currently lags behind many of its international competitors on public R&D spending but the government said it would set out detailed plans to plug the gap in the autumn.

A third of international students in the UK in 2017 studied STEM-related subjects, providing a large potential skills pool for the manufacturing and engineering sectors

Welcoming the announcement, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), Dr Sarah Main, said:

"The government's promise to significantly increase public investment in R&D is good news. CaSE's members have told us that leadership and long-term R&D investment from government enables them to plan for the future and gives industry the confidence to keep on investing in research and innovation. Delivery of the promised investment plan in the autumn will turn that reassurance in to confidence.”

Meanwhile, the government has also announced that international students will benefit from a new two-year 'post-study work visa’, allowing them to remain in the UK after graduating to look for a job.

Around a third of international students in the UK in 2017 studied STEM-related subjects, providing a large potential skills pool for the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

Dr Main said:

“This is terrific news. It will be a boost to the UK's science and engineering economy, which attracts significant numbers of international students, by enabling students to move more easily in to the job market.

“Some of the UK's biggest R&D companies talk of the 'war for talent' in areas such as AI. The UK has just raised its game."

Both announcements featured in a recent list of five priorities CaSE said it wanted the government to act upon.

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), added:

“This is unequivocally good news and sends a clear signal that the UK is open for business. Improving the UK’s post-study work offer will make us an even more attractive destination for global talent - benefiting both universities and businesses alike.”

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