back to article Government to sling extra £4.7bn at R&D in bid to Brexit-proof Britain

The UK government is to throw an extra £4.7bn at R&D for smart energy technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence, and 5G in its Industrial Strategy to be published later today. The fund is in addition to a cash pot announced by May in November, when £2bn was earmarked for R&D by 2020. Industry groups have long …

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  1. happy but not clappy
    FAIL

    Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

    It would be nice if they understood that effective social uplift was the goal, not robots and AI and all that other trickle-down globalised efficiency bollocks.

    Unless they replace the politicians of course. I'm all for that. Then they can all do something useful, like building houses or looking after the old and knackered.

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

      It is apparently vitally important to throw public money at R&D areas which already have colossal amounts of money being flung at them by the private sector. They would do better spending their time thinking up a strategy for preserving UK-owned exploitable intellectual property, rather than encouraging e.g. ARM to be sold to the Japanese.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

        They would do better spending their time thinking up a strategy for preserving UK-owned exploitable intellectual property,

        Easy to do using some kind of golden share but this begs the question as to whether ARM would have been as successful with such an arrangement. On paper the ARM sale was a great deal for the shareholders… A bigger problem is current trend for debt-financed M&A but I don't expect any government to take any steps to reduce this any time soon.

        Governments almost always get it wrong when they get closely involved in industrial policy whether it's by trying to pick winners, protectionist policies or subsidies in the form of lower taxes.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

          On paper the ARM sale was a great deal for the shareholders? I'm wondering as there are a lot of ARM deals that seem to have been closed since the buyout that were not mentioned in the literature they sent to me but must have been in the offing.

        2. oldhat

          Re: Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

          Yeah, because the last 30 years of deregulation and "low touch" approach to governance and business has been a great success for the UK's industrial development! :O

          I am not promoting their pittance of a return the style of governance and support that is needed but I'd disagree that the now "old style" of free market economics is shurely proven as a failure?

    2. billse10

      Re: Buzzword bingo and the boomer mindset

      "Then they can all do something useful, like building houses "

      Would you want to live in a house built by the average MP? (And some of our MPs are very average!)

  2. @JagPatel3

    Duplicitous Behaviour – Saying One Thing and Doing the Exact Opposite

    It should be noted that the defence manufacturing industry has been excluded from the list of industry sectors and technologies at which the Government is planning to throw public money. Quite rightly.

    Because, when it comes to the Ministry of Defence and the procurement of defence equipment for the Armed Forces, the record of performance over the decades has been abysmal.

    Not least because for some years now, Defence Contractors have repeatedly expressed their eagerness to invest Private Sector capital in MoD equipment acquisition programmes, provided MoD reveals more information about its spending plans.

    Yet, Defence Contractors’ behaviour is contrary to declarations of intent made in public because they have been found to be hoarding mountains of cash clandestinely and then sitting on it, instead of using it to fund in-house research & development to gain a competitive advantage, boost productivity and readying off-the-shelf products – by advancing the developmental status of their staring-points for the Technical Solution from its existing condition, to a point where it will satisfy the qualitative and quantitative requirements expressed in the invitation to tender, which will also serve to ease the burden on MoD’s equipment budget.

    This amounts to duplicitous behaviour – saying one thing and doing the exact opposite!

    The nub of the problem is that Contractors’ Business Model is founded on lies and deception; perpetrated by the few upon the unsuspecting many – Governments, Shareholders, Members of Parliament, employees, academics, the military, Supply Chain partners, journalists and the wider community – over several decades.

    Not a shred of honest intent is to be detected anywhere.

    A proposal for eliciting Private Sector investment capital into defence procurement programmes is set out in this written submission to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s ongoing inquiry into Industrial Strategy.

    The pdf copy of the paper can be downloaded from:

    http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/business-innovation-and-skills-committee/industrial-strategy/written/36606.pdf

    @JagPatel3 on twitter

    1. Len Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Duplicitous Behaviour – Saying One Thing and Doing the Exact Opposite

      Nothing new here, Theresa May's is very good at it.

      We want to make Britain a champion of Free Trade (by tearing up all existing Free Trade agreements we have with over 50 countries).

      We want to be a country that is open to trade (by introducing an eye watering amount of bureaucracy for any company wishing to import, export or hire talent from abroad).

      We want to create a Britain that works for everyone (by turning the country into a tax haven and reducing labour, environmental and consumer protections).

      We want to make Britain a global Britain (by making border passage a nightmare, ripping up existing trade agreements and make it harder to operate internationally).

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        They could start by making it possible to sack bad teachers in less than 1 academic year.

        They can inept.

        They can be lazy.

        But as long as they don't fiddle with the kids or swear (too often) at the Head they cannot be fired.

        Which may explain why they are left to f**k up kids views of education for decades when they should have been shown the door the week after they arrived.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They could start by making it possible to sack bad teachers in less than 1 academic year.

          Governments have been blaming the teachers for decades, perhaps we need to be more imaginative and look at why teachers here are struggling under such high workloads, why formal education starts so early, why behaviour of children is so poor, why education is dictated by government. League tables don't help as they become a political football and schools have responded to pressure to improve results by taking the easiest route to achieve the results. I agree with the sentiments but perhaps if schools were more pleasant places to work we wouldn't have a crisis in recruitment and retention of the best people..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They could start by making it possible to sack bad teachers in less than 1 academic year.

          According to a friend who's a teacher, that's not true. However, a head will be reluctant to replace a teacher part way through a year as it is quite disruptive. So the teacher will have to be quite bad before they reach the level where accepting the disruption is the better option.

          I'd also like to point out that it's forty years since I first went to school and we've had loads of reforms, increased standards, more and more paperwork for teachers, more tests, inspections making teachers work more and be easier to replace and the end result is at best no change and at worst a more expensive system which turns out slightly worse educated pupils and certainly ones less prepared for life.

  3. druck
    Stop

    NEB

    Lets hope this isn't the start of another National Enterprise Board thowing money at buzz words and lost causes.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: NEB

      This will be totally different.

      It will be throwing money at existing large companies that say the right buzz words.

      I wonder how much of the $Bn for 5G and digital whatsit will just be given to BT

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Priorities

    Presumably these are areas where the UK is not currently spending as much money as might be? My impression is that UK R&D using public money is chiefly in life sciences.

    If so, then it's interesting that this (to me) seems opposite of the strategy that TeamGB use for getting medals in the Olympics where the process is to identify those athletes that will probably succeed and then put the effort into making sure they will, rather than funding generally to produce a larger number of mid-range athletes.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      My exact thoughts.

      The electronics, software, etc R&D in UK is mostly moribund. There is a bit of stuff going on here and there and a few bright spots like Arm. Otherwise it is nowhere near where it was 15 years ago. It has been superseded (in terms of investment interest) by biotech and pharma through and through.

      It is quite easy to quantify too - 20 years ago Cambridge and Guildford was 70%+ telecoms, electronics and software. It is now 70%+ biotech and pharma.

      So, the government has decided to try to flog the already dead IT horse (all these business long moved elsewhere) to neigh and run the grand national. Good luck with that one - it will take much more than 5Bn.

      It has also decided to kill the current "goose that is laying the golden eggs". Biotech and pharma is run by 70%+ Eu labor. UK simply does not produce anything like the amount of native graduates in this area. So it neither gets public financing nor the labor it needs. One act of gratuitous self harm is followed by another act of gratuitous self-harm. Fantastic Mrs May. Sheer unadulterated genius. Whatagal...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Priorities

        "My exact thoughts"

        Possibly if you think "UK hi-tech" == Cambridge ... which admittedly seems to be the prevailing view of the media (with the addition of "silicon roundabout" where appropriate)

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "identify those athletes that will probably succeed"

      Although I generally agree with your point, there is the issue of identifying said research "athletes". Not an easy thing to do because research is, by definition, a domain where nobody really knows where they'll end up.

      It's not because you say that you're looking for room-temperature superconductive materials that that's what you'll find. You can just as easily find nothing, or something completely different.

      That is why funding has to be less selective - you never know which horse to bet on to finish the race, nor do you know if the money you spend on one thing isn't going to show results in a totally different area a few years (or decades) later.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "identify those athletes that will probably succeed"

        >opposite of the strategy that TeamGB use for getting medals in the Olympics

        Depends what you want as an outcome.

        If the goal was to win Gold medals that was exactly correct.

        If the goal was to encourage the public to take up sport then concentrating all the funding on technical cycling, rowing and equestrian events was a total disaster.

        The olympic strategy would work if the aim was just to win Noble prizes. Just pick a few areas where the UK leads the world and fund small elite teams in those areas. But it's not clear that spending a few billion quid on Stephen Hawkings and Andrew Wiles will regenerate the north.

  5. James 51 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Apologies if this appears twice but my previous appears to have been eaten by gremlins (before midnight).

    Freedom is slavery.

    Trade is protectionism?

    1. billse10

      Alternative is truth?

  6. Bogle
    Joke

    It's not for you, either

    Ooh! Can I have some of that?

    (gets on the phone)

    No, my name's not Crapita. No, it's not Fuckitsu either. Hello? Hello?? Bastards 'ave cut me off!

    1. billse10

      Re: It's not for you, either

      Not entirely sure that's the correct icon, as it's far too close to likely truth to be that funny?

  7. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Meh

    Developing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

    There is no shortage of STEM graduates - according to last year's Wakeham Review, “something like 40 per cent” of STEM graduates are in non-graduate jobs.

    1. Doc Ock
      Unhappy

      Re: Developing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

      That's because the pay is piss poor in science and far higher in the finance world where STEM graduates are highly prized for their mental skills compared to the conveyor belt MBA's.

      My nephew who last year graduated with a double first in Chemistry from Oxford, much to my disappoint, went for straight for a career at PWC at a very good starting salary. No amount of persuasion on my part could steer him to a lower paid but IMHO a more personally rewarding science research career. A clever chap and yet another sad loss from the ranks of industry and research.

      1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Developing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

        I quite agree Doc Ock but if the lad in question has just come out of Uni he's probably got a £35k millstone around his neck and if PWC have offered him a job that might let him clear that debt within 5-8 years max and maybe allow him a slim chance at a pension/mortgage/savings, if he were my son, I too would say head to PWC.

        I've been telling my teenage daughter roughly the same thing as she begins her GCSEs. Take up the humanities and science subjects only, "learn how to learn" by studying sciences but don't bother going into science directly unless you want to teach it, use your skills to get you into a well paid, "beginners" management job that has prospects to get you some cash into your pocket.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Developing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

        "That's because the pay is piss poor in science"

        We need to produce far more STEM graduates. If we don't there's a risk the pay might creep up to something reasonable.

        1. Bogle

          Re: Developing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

          Luckily we've come up with a scheme to make STEM graduates more valuable - force out half of the current lot of scientists ...

  8. Len Silver badge
    Facepalm

    If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

    Many other European countries have industrial strategies. And they demonstrate that it can work too. They key is to not go about it the 1980's way by pouring cash into failing industries and thereby only postponing their inevitable collapse.

    If the Government was smart they would identify five or so growth sectors where the UK has the skill set, environment, trajectory etc. to grow and that could become a serious export sector. Then, instead of pouring money into businesses, you put money and effort into sorting out what the challenges for businesses in those sectors are.

    Complex regulatory hoops because the law hasn't kept up with developments? Put a task force on it to sort it out.

    Issues with a skills gap in a particular sector? Co-finance the development of training for those skills. From apprentice schemes to supporting local universities setting up specialised courses.

    Customers are increasingly abroad but the factories are poorly connected to a port? Invest in relocation or build freight tracks to better connect to ports.

    etc. etc.

    One of the industries with which I think the UK has really dropped the ball is renewable energy. This is a fairly windy Island surrounded by waves, tides and currents. The UK should be *the* renewable energy powerhouse whose companies export installations to all across the world. Instead we have Dutch companies installing Danish offshore wind turbines and connecting them to German installed grid connections to the British mainland.

    Obviously, this is all easier said than done. Effectiveness is not Theresa May's style so this thing will likely turn into a big cock up with suspicions of corruption and milking tax payer's money. In five years time it will transpire that some Tory donor has donated 1 million into the Conservative Party coffers and lo and behold, his factory is now getting a dedicated rail line to the nearest port that is of surprisingly little use to any of his competitors.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

      I saw nothing about a strategy... only an announcement .... you'd think a journalist would know the difference. Pretty poor reporting on the details of the strategy... oh wait, it was just an announcement.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

        "Pretty poor reporting on the details of the strategy... oh wait, it was just an announcement."

        In fairness to the journalist they are dealing with PR from this government. A Government who quite literally is saying one thing and doing the other. So don't be surprised that this announcement is referenced as a strategy by said government in 6 months time.

      2. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

        Re: If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

        > I saw nothing about a strategy... only an announcement

        Quite, but the biggest implied post-fact is that such an announcement or strategy is now somehow enabled by Brexit - it fits rather well into an EU-wide mindset, and may well be be less risky in that context. There is nothing about the EU that would have prevented a UK government from pursuing a secondary industry policy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

          "There is nothing about the EU that would have prevented a UK government" from doing an awful lot of things; it has been easier for years to blame 'Europe' than accept responsibility. The biggest example - Free movement of people - which is free movement of workers and their families, not free movement of anyone whatsoever, except for the way our own government implemented it.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: If done right, an industrial strategy can definitely work

      Sorry, Len, that's all far too sensible. It's never going to happen.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    I doubt it will work.

    UK Governments have a bad track record.

    Computers in 1950s.

    First aircraft with added rocket engine, 1950s

    Ever Ready Batteries. Blocked their takeover of Mallory (now Duracell), now gone.

    Inmos and Transputer sold to a clueless buyer.

    UK Electronics was too dependant on Military / P.O. pork, quality was so poor that when Japanese opened UK factories they had to import parts.

    Tarrifs higher on parts than finished goods for many years to protect useless to non-existent parts makers.

    Only country to abandon Space after reaching it.

    Only country to abandon working Nuclear weapons in favour of import only.

    Scrapped Harrier.

    Thatcher's dream, a Nation of shopkeepers (financial services who are parasites and money launderers and other "service" industries).

    Silicon Roundabout

    What's her name with the pointless websites.

    UK in the past wasted Billions on protectionism and investment in doomed stuff, killed anything new with potential.

    The BBC Computer was only incidentally successful in creating ARM. It was the innovation of core Acorn people backed by Apple investment, to help the Newton. For every tech success like ARM (most of which like the successful Sussex based Satellite building company are despite the Government) there are many the Government actively killed or created a a toxic environment for.

    Maybe 1952 was the zenith and it's been downhill since.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: I doubt it will work.

      What's her name with the pointless websites.

      Martha Lane Fox? She now sits in the House of Lords. For her, those web sites were anything but pointless.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Martha Lane Fox

        Forgot about her. I was thinking of a different one.

        Not that I have a problem with women in tech. But those are not tech women.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I doubt it will work.

      "Tarrifs higher on parts than finished goods for many years to protect useless to non-existent parts makers."

      As far as I know that's still in place as an EU thing. I wonder if that's at our insistence in which case the EU'll probably be able to get rid of it.

      You can add in nuclear energy and TSR2.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I doubt it will work.

      "First aircraft with added rocket engine, 1950s"

      That a reference to mixed power interceptors? Rocket boost/primary thrust fell by wayside as jets became more powerful. And GB continued to be at front with jets for some time.

  11. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Terminator

    Yay

    More robotics

    Means more profits

    Why

    Because you can dump those expensive messy humans and replace them with machines that dont go on strike/toilet breaks/lunch breaks/need to sleep

    Although they do have a mind of their own when you desperatly need them and then they break down

    Boris <<< currently struggling with a split hydralic hose

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yay

      "Because you can dump those expensive messy humans and replace them with machines that dont go on strike/toilet breaks/lunch breaks/need to sleep"

      Farmyard robotics maybe the savior of UK farmers once those hard working and reasonably price East Europeans have to go home permanently.

      And making a robot work on a farm is way tougher than a factory,

      Exciting times indeed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let fcuk Pointless copper based 'upto" G.fast into the long grass.

    Forget Spin. Real improvements in the UK's Internet principally mean above all else, more fibre optic cables in the ground, to all parts of the UK. Every other fixed/mobile buzzword (and the cost of its implementation) is dependent on that.

    Fibre in the ground, is the only real leveller here.

    We should be using the technology we currently have to make the rollout of real / pure Fibre as cheap as possible. That means utilitising Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Mobile Apps so everyone down to their Grandma is singing from the same hymn sheet without each Company being devisive for their own ends. The only way to do that is open debate.

    FTTP Installation access (streets at a time) can be as hard or easy as you want it to be, but there needs to be a date when will kill Copper for good. In Star Trek terms: "He's dead Jim"

    Let's not forget. BT will use such tech above-FWAT to be devisive as they want about the difficulties, in order to promote/prolong their "upto" FTTC/Pointless G.fast technology to remain in control of the local loop, keep the alternative choices (to BT) at the Pole/FTTC and not the doorstep.

    That final bit of copper artificially restricts Broadband access speeds, enabling BT to gouge "upto" pricing, based on an artificial tap (as in water) they have put in place.

    Restrictive gouged pricing for 'upto' tiered Broadband speeds is a difficult concept to promote when there is unrestricted Fibre to the door.

  13. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, ..."

    Uh-oh... that usually means "we have no idea what we are doing currently".

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      "we have no idea what we are doing currently"

      But to be fair at least that suggests awareness of how clueless they are.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, ..."

      Uh-oh... that usually means "we have no idea what we are doing currently".

      I think it means "we're looking for it with both hands but so far haven't even been able to find our arse".

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Look how well a totally new approach every 18months did for education

    4. anonymous boring coward Silver badge
      Go

      "It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, ..."

      It actually means: "we will now be a lot more like the EU we are leaving, as we have seen that it works over there"

      But EU is no Britain. I had more faith in the EU spreading some money around than Britain doing the same, with the crony system in place here. With intellectual giants such as Boris in place, how can anything possibly go wrong?

      First scrap the class system, THEN implement some meaningful wealth redistribution and state investment. That way everything doesn't go towards new gravel for the moat.

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Facepalm

    There is now new money…

    at least based on the last budget there isn't. So any announcements are either the usual repackaging of previous ones, or outright lies, or both like the £ 350 million a week allegedly to be found down the Treasury's sofa.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: There is now new money…

      "at least based on the last budget there isn't. So any announcements are either the usual repackaging of previous ones, or outright lies, or both like the £ 350 million a week allegedly to be found down the Treasury's sofa."

      Well last week Frau May said that, during the whole referendum, both sides stated that leaving the EU would result in leaving the single market. Ever since I've been trying to recall this event, trying to remember if the Vote Leave lot actually said that. Thing is, I'm struggling to remember such an event.

      But, in other news, salt production in the UK has risen massively since Frau May has come to power due to the amount of salt being pinched when she's talking her usual load of nonsense.

      1. Len Silver badge

        Re: There is now new money…

        It was definitely not as clear cut as May suggests. Prominent people on the Remain side said that leaving the EU would mean leaving the Single Market. Prominent people on the Leave side said that leaving the EU would not mean leaving the Single Market.

        The Leave campaigners were right, those two are not necessarily linked. They used the examples of Norway and Switzerland as examples of countries that are not in the EU but are in the Single Market, they campaigned for the UK to follow their example. That was a smart move as there is a considerable chunk of the electorate that wants to leave the EU but not the SM.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xGt3QmRSZY

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