Prosperity Outcomes: Productive Nation

Supplementary content information

Productive Nation Outcomes and Ambitions.

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Samantha Francis, Head of Balancing Capability - EPSRC

My name is Samantha Francis and I’m head of one of our corporate strategies at EPSRC and that’s called balancing capability and I am also convenor for the productive nation.

If I had to summarise this outcome I would say that there are two parts to it.  On the one hand there is funding the blue skies transformative research that leads to new products and technologies that drive growth in the UK.  But on the other hand it is also about being able to take those scientific breakthroughs up into market and then either create new products, or scale them up to being able to manufacture them at a larger scale.

One of the first ambitions is to introduce the next generation of technologies and disruptive products.  So there are real opportunities there for the community in areas such as advanced materials, quantum technologies, even things like graphene.  An area where EPSRC has already seen some success is advanced materials and this actually underpins a number of the ambitions in the productive nation.  So thinking about new materials that might lead on to new products or new technologies, but also thinking about how we can recycle and reuse materials is really important to moving to a circular economy and being more resource efficient in the UK. 

If we look at the 20th Century it was very much defined by the globalisation of industry with developing countries becoming part of that global network, but recently we have seen more of a trend of localised distribution of products and services bringing the end user closer to the product.  So a good example would be if we were able to 3D print a hip replacement on site in the hospital that’s bespoke to an individual patient.  So there is a real opportunity to decrease our dependencies on imports and to enrich local communities.

Another important element for the productive outcome that we want to focus on over the next five years is the skills needed to deliver a productive outcome, because there is a lot about working with business, scaling up science into products and having those entrepreneurial skills and being able to spot those opportunities.  We need to work with our partners and other funders to ensure that our leaders and future researchers have those skills to be able to contribute to the challenges.

For this outcome working with other funders such as Innovate UK and the business community is critical for its successful delivery, because a lot of the ambitions that we have set out are about being able to take science through to translation.  So for the UK as a nation we need to look at new sectors and new areas to invest in.  If we are able to match productivity in the US we would see an increase in our GDP by about 31 per cent, so there’s a real role for EPSRC and investment in science and technology to create new products that would lead to growth for the UK.