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Overview: Economy and development

Outstanding research and innovation advance our economic, social and cultural well-being and our health. In modern economies they are a key source of competitive advantage and can help increase productivity.

The UK has created a world-leading research base, which provides the foundation for new ideas and discoveries, and fuels economic growth and the creation of high-value jobs and skills in our knowledge-driven economy.

A stable long-term investment environment for research, innovation and skills would help to secure future growth and competitiveness.

In addition, excellent research and innovation help us to live healthier, fuller and better lives and can make an important contribution to international development, not only improving health and wellbeing but also supporting growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

Long-term economic growth in the UK

Our landmark report, The Scientific Century, explored the central role science plays in the economic growth of nations by producing useful new knowledge, by spurring the creation of new firms and by improving the supply of skilled graduates and researchers. The industrial revolution, the manufacturing revolution and the information revolution were all underpinned by science and technology. Now, the UK is well-placed to contribute to and benefit from the next wave of world-changing technologies.

Science and innovation should therefore be at the heart of plans for long-term economic growth. In Building a stronger future, a joint report with other national academies, we recommended that Government adopt a stable long-term investment environment for research, innovation and skills to fully realise the benefits from science.

Global sustainable development

Science, technology and innovation underpin the success and sustainability of international development. Our statement on science and technology for African development, published with academies from other G8 nations, called on world leaders to help countries in Africa to develop, adapt and use scientific and technological solutions appropriate to their specific needs.

The Royal Society has a long history of promoting science in Africa by supporting collaborations, networks and exchanges between scientists and building the capacity of scientific institutions. As well as providing a number of grants and awards, we are partners in international schemes to make scientific journal articles available immediately and free of charge to the world's poorest nations.

The world’s poorest people need to consume more in order to be raised out of extreme poverty. However, material consumption in the richest parts of the world is far above the level that can be sustained by all, and total consumption will continue to increase as the world’s population gets larger. Our experts addressed these controversial topics in the report People and the Planet. They determined that consumption levels between developed and developing nations must be rebalanced alongside a stabilisation of the world’s population by voluntary methods.

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