Science should have a central role in the UK economy, which has struggled with productivity since the 2008 financial crash. This is a problem. Poor productivity stifles growth and makes it harder to deliver improved living standards. Increasing investment in research and development (R&D) is an evidenced way to improve productivity – but is an area the UK has significantly underinvested in since the 1980s. We estimate UK underinvestment in R&D totals £222 billion since 1985, when compared to OECD averages. Rectifying this should be a clear priority.

It is important we prioritise health research and development, including basic science, public health, behavioural science, and innovation development. The UK’s health sector has clear strengths. It has an enviable academic base, delivers strong return on investment, and is home to an exciting range of businesses with the potential to grow. As we build the role of science in our economy, health research and the life sciences should be a central pillar in our approach.

But we need a strategy to maximise gains. Health research and the life sciences can provide significant value – for our economy, society, and health. However, we will not maximise that value without a coherent strategy. The new 'R&D Roadmap' has begun that process for the research and development as a whole. However, we need to translate that into specific, bold strategies for strength R&D areas – like health and the life sciences.

This report outlines a progressive approach, based on three central pillars.