Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:05 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Andy Street:

Brilliant. I actually think this is probably one of the single most important parts of this Bill, and I am not sure it has had—what is the word?—the celebration it probably deserves. If you look at the long-term determinants of inequality, the intensity of R&D in an area is absolutely critical. You only have to look at the states of the Union and at an area such as Massachusetts and its leadership in R&D in medtech to see how Boston has become the most successful city in that sector by a country mile.

We have had a lopsided country in terms of public R&D—not just a little lopsided, but hugely lopsided. If you look at the West Midlands, we are very successful at drawing in private R&D, and we are very weak at drawing in public R&D. Our ratio here is four to one. It is definitely the worst in the whole country. It is ironic, isn’t it, because the private sector sees the opportunity and the public sector has not seen it in the same way? So for the Government to commit to tilting that and leveraging in even more private sector cash on the back of that is very important.

What has got to happen to do it? Frankly, we have got to change our approach to some extent. There is a whole piece here about cluster theory. Our public R&D has been incredibly focused in a very small number of research councils and research universities, which are basically around our automotive sector. We need to continue to play to that strength, but then to balance that by looking at the medtech sector, the fintech sector and clean growth. That is where we will be putting our focus in the innovator accelerator, so that it is a catalyst for us to improve our performance in new, adjacent sectors. So that diversification approach is a very important sprat to catch a mackerel—that’s what I call it.