The government should prioritise a drive to establish the UK as a “global innovation superpower”, according to a report published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The country’s largest business organisation is calling for the upcoming government spending round to put the emphasis on stimulating business and upskilling generations of workers.”The Covid crisis makes it even more important that the government takes key decisions and implements its strategy on the ground, ensuring public investment catalyses wider business investment and confidence. Delay is not an option,” said the CBI.

Recommendations from the CBI include a range of measures designed to invest in people, accelerate innovation and build infrastructure to deliver a net-zero economy and to reinvigorate the ‘levelling-up’ agenda between SE England and the rest of the country.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “The pandemic has created huge economic challenges, and the crisis is far from over, yet the government ought not to lose sight of the UK’s long-term priorities and the urgent need to deliver them on the ground.

 “If the government takes decisions and sets out its strategy then business can invest in the critical infrastructure, training, and innovation needed to support jobs and living standards across the UK. 

“The spending round provides an opportunity to invest in a long-term vision for the economy, which means moving forward with levelling-up ambitions and working towards a net-zero economy. 

“The next six months is a chance to invest in our future. Business will look to government to deliver a platform of investment and opportunity which enables a swift recovery and a brighter future as Britain builds back better.”   

The CBI said regional centres should be established around the country to incentivise collaborative research and innovation, and called on the government to set out a roadmap on how it would deliver the plan to increase public investment in R&D to £22 billion by 2024-25.

There should also be financial incentives to encourage businesses to innovate and embrace digital technologies. Additionally, the CBI said ministers should publish the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy and the Energy White Paper to provide certainty to business. A world-class infrastructure bank should be created to support recovery and deliver the transition to net-zero.

On skills, the CBI is proposing a range of initiatives including changing the current Apprenticeship Levy into a Skills and Training Levy that will support business to invest more in their workers. A lifelong learning loan allowance should also be introduced to help individuals fund training throughout their careers.