Blue sky’s the limit

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Blue-sky research produces the biggest economic pay-offs in the long run, according to a report published by the Russell Group, which represents the 20 leading UK universities.

The report looks at a wide range of economic impacts, from spin-out companies and licences to consultancies and collaborations between universities and businesses.

It reveals that 66 breakthrough discoveries at Russell Group institutions have generated combined wealth of almost £2bn.

The research claims that a majority of highly successful licences and spin-out companies have emerged from long-term curiosity-driven research and that successful commercialisation requires sustained long-term investment in research, often over many years or even decades.

The report comes at a time when universities are acutely concerned about the possibility of future cutbacks in research funding, as the government seeks large savings in public expenditure.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: ‘This report demonstrates that investment in leading research is not a luxury to be set to one side in times of increased stringency. We very much hope that our universities will not have to sustain further cuts in next week’s budget. The publicly funded research they carry out is essential to the government’s ambitions for world-leading innovation.’