In line with the Labour Industrial Strategy’s goal of improving resilience to extreme risks, Labour should use part of the existing commitment to raise R&D spending to 3% of GDP towards preventing economic uncertainty from future pandemics.
- COVID-19 caused extensive supply chain disruptions contributing to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and increased the UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio from 80% to 100%.
- Experts expect the frequency of pandemics to increase, potentially with greater severity. As with climate change, the incoming Labour government should act to strengthen business confidence and protect our economy from disruption.
- Like the Biden Administration in the USA, the next Labour government should match its ambitions on pandemic preparedness to its ambitions on climate.
- Pandemic preparedness R&D could minimise the stringency and length of future lockdowns and prevent inflationary supply chain disruptions, protecting businesses and jobs.
- Uniquely severe market failures in private sector pandemic preparedness R&D strongly justify government intervention.
- Work published by BEIS indicates that the average £1 of public R&D spending generates between £1.96 and £2.34 of additional private R&D spending in the long run.
An incoming Labour government should incentivise private sector R&D investment in pandemic preparedness technologies, including vaccine platforms and broad spectrum antivirals. To do this, Labour should:
- Use the new Advanced Research and Innovation Agency to create inducement prizes, recognition prizes and advanced market commitments.
- Launch an additional annual £100 million Catalyst Competition under UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
A Labour government should also set out joint funding calls focused on pandemic preparedness from the Medical Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Council worth £1.2 billion annually for the next 15 years.
These policies should be funded by redirecting existing funding from cross-UKRI initiatives, Innovate UK, the Medical Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Council, alongside new funding to UKRI.