UK spending on research drops behind China

Oliver Smith
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CHINA is spending six times more on the iterative development phase of innovation than the UK – $500m (£313m) a day – according to a report out today by innovation charity Nesta.

The development phase of innovation refers to China’s ability to take existing knowledge to improve materials, products and services.

“China now produces 13 per cent of the world’s scientific papers and has 25 per cent of its research and development workforce,” said Nesta’s head of international innovation Kirsten Bound highlighting that 10 years ago China accounted for only five per cent of the worlds total scientific papers.

“Its innovation system is advancing so rapidly, and is now so absorptive, that the UK needs a more ambitious strategy, better able to seize opportunities across the spread of our academic, research and business links to China,” added Bound.

Meanwhile chancellor George Osborne is visiting Beijing this week for high level talks on finance, economics and innovation, along with UK trade minister Lord Green and minister for science and innovation David Willetts.

Britain has now become second only to the US in the number of co-authored research papers with China, but the pace of change in China’s research base leaves little room for complacency, Nesta’s China’s Absorptive State report warns.

The report says that China’s economy is adept at attracting and profiting from global knowledge, leading the reports authors to label China as a so-called absorptive state.

“I’m particularly pleased that the UK has risen to become China’s second most popular partner in co-authored research papers. The opportunities for China and the UK to work together to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and to create new sources of sustainable economic growth, have never been greater,” said Willetts.

Nesta’s report, which is produced in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Research Councils UK, recommends the UK government should develop a new five year strategy to encourage further China-UK collaboration in the fields of research and innovation.

“On almost every measure of research and innovation, China continues to exceed expectations. Its system is not without problems, but it is now well on track to becoming a science and innovation superpower by 2020,” said University of Sussex professor of science and democracy James Wilsdon.