UK universities have called on the government to commit to a major investment plan in research and development (R&D) in a joint letter ahead of the Autumn Fiscal Account.

The letter, organized by the University Alliance, expressed concern that the government, now led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, will sacrifice investment in research and development as part of the “tough decisions” to be made in the new budget, which will be announced next month.

The letter calls on the government to “re-commit to investing £20 billion every year in research and development by 2024-25” and says the investment is vital for the jobs of the future.

Universities play an important role in the UK technology ecosystem, with spin-offs continuing to commercialize intellectual property developed in academia.

Universities also claim that “public funding for research and development delivers outstanding value for money”, using the example of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) which they say “generates £8.30 for every £1 of funding “.

Potential harm to net zero targets was also cited as a consequence of cuts in R&D spending.

“Avoiding disaster today is not enough, we must strive to thrive tomorrow and into the future,” the letter said.

“We are calling on you to protect research and development (R&D) funding now to help grow the UK economy and support the commitment to be net zero by 2050.”

The letter was signed by more than a dozen universities including Coventry University, Kingston University and the University of Derby. Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group, was also among the signatories.

A number of companies have also signed on open letterincluding leaders from Siemens, Gatwick Airport and BusinessWest.

A report published this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that the UK’s share of global R&D investment has fallen by a fifth since 2014.

The report also notes that the UK ranks low among other economically developed nations in terms of R&D spending, coming in at 11th in the OECD ranking.

UK universities urge government to spare R&D cuts in autumn budget