This policy briefing is based on research which starts from two premises. First, the government has made strong commitments to increasing investment in research and development (R&D) as a way to address economic, social and global challenges. It is unquestionable that investments in research and innovation have made innumerable improvements and contributions to lives and livelihoods. These benefits are a result of research and innovation insights from all disciplines, but this broad-based contribution does not translate into policymakers’ definitions of R&D, nor does it sit well with R&D statistics.
In particular, the model by which governments understand R&D is structured toward STEM-based research activities and so does not map effectively on to knowledge creation in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS). There is a risk of a “gulf” between how R&D happens and the policies that support it.
Second, the Government has a target of investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027, with the aim of boosting the UK’s innovation performance, increasing to 3%. The UK economy is 80% service based. It contains fast growing, internationally competitive sectors like the creative industries. Understanding and measuring R&D in the services sector in particular, with its origins in AHSS disciplines may have vital significance for the 3% target, and for the direction of policies to promote innovation and economic growth.
Without the right definitions and tools to measure R&D, and effective policies in place to support it, the Government risks ignoring the full value of R&D in the UK economy, and missing out on incentivising investment in innovation in AHSS-related sectors and activities. Rectifying this could lead to a host of benefits for the UK economy, society, and productivity.
This policy briefing summarises the main findings from a research study which addresses this issue and presents implications for policy. It draws on a detailed literature review, desk research of data sources, and interviews and case studies from thirteen businesses across different sectors. It is structured around ten headline findings which tell a story about the broad nature of R&D in the arts, humanities and social sciences, the more selective interpretation of the definition of R&D in UK policymaking, the limits this imposes on accurate data collection, the implications for business understanding, and the opportunities for more effective research and innovation policymaking.
Please reference this paper as:
Bakhshi, H., Breckon, J. and Puttick, R (2021) Business R&D in the arts, humanities and social sciences. London: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Nesta. Available from: https://pec.ac.uk/policy-briefings/business-r-d-in-the-arts-humanities-and-social-sciences
Published 26th February 2021
Image by Andrea Piacquadio