The CBI has highlighted the opportunity for the south west to take the lead in the research race today as it releases a report showing that the region invests less money in research and development than other areas of the UK.

The call comes as the CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn will be launching a groundbreaking report at the opening of Reckitt Benckiser’s (RB) new £105 million Science and Innovation Centre in Hull — marking the biggest single investment in RB’s history.

The new report shines a light on the businesses across the UK who are undertaking pioneering research, development and innovation in areas from aerospace to agriculture. Yet ‘Don’t wait, innovate’ finds that not enough of this R&D is currently happening across the UK – risking progress on achieving the target of 2.4% GDP spend on R&D by 2027 and the longer-term aim of 3%.

The UK currently spends 1.7% of GDP on R&D – far below the 2.4% OECD average – and UK investment is particularly limited outside of the south east. In Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly, this figure is just 0.39%.

The CBI says a greater focus on accelerating R&D investment in the worst performing regions could provide a £7.3 billion boost to UK R&D spend, bringing the 2.4% target for R&D spend within grasp.

‘Don’t wait, innovate’ argues that the UK must capture the benefits that flow from improving innovation-led growth across the country – by creating new regional network of Catapult Quarters across the UK.

These would encourage industry to collaborate regionally on the key challenges that face our country – like clean growth, healthy ageing, the future of mobility and AI – with targeted and practical support.

CBI regional director for the south west, Deborah Fraser, said: “By running with this agenda, business and Government can in partnership unleash the innovative potential of towns and cities throughout the UK. Throughout the south west there are already a wealth of successful stories of companies coming together in their regions to the benefit of society and the economy.

“Imagine – if R&D spending increases to at least 3% of GDP and Catapult Quarters are created – how much further could the UK grow its successful innovation-based economy and break ground on the grand challenges of our time.”