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The role of physics in supporting economic growth and national productivity

The UK has an excellent track record in physics research and innovation. It’s a key part of international research collaborations, as well as being home to world-leading institutions and innovative, pioneering businesses. All of those will be crucial to securing the UK’s economic future.


Foreword to the report by Institute President Professor Dame Julia Higgins

The UK government has committed to a modern industrial strategy, including a desire to increase productivity and drive growth across the country. Physics-based industries contribute to that productivity and growth. Our research provides a comprehensive analysis of the extent of those contributions, in terms of productivity, value added and employment.

Our data show the important role of physics in the economy of the whole of the UK, as well as in all of the regions of England and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Physics-based businesses drive productivity and create growth and offer employment in all areas of the UK.

The government has shown its commitment to increasing science spending to 2.4% of GDP. This should be invested in all areas – investment in cutting-edge science, fundamental research and work applied to the real world. All kinds of physics research have the potential to have a huge impact: not only those directly and immediately applied to business, but also the curiosity-driven research that inspires and underpins the applications and technologies of the future.

As government pushes forward with its industrial strategy, physics-based industries will have a vital role in driving growth across the whole country. Some of the most important sectors highlighted by the government directly involve physics – from the life sciences, ultra-low-emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, the nuclear industry and the creative industries. These will require physics-based businesses to advance the UK’s standing in these sectors of the future.

At the IOP, we’re working to ensure that investment in physics continues and that businesses can continue to grow in a changing landscape. The analysis presented here will be pivotal to that drive.