Government unveils £6bn package for UK science and innovation

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 by The Manufacturer

The government today unveiled its new plan to keep British science and innovation at the forefront of global excellence.

The Science and Innovation Strategy, formally announced by Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark at the Royal Society today, builds on the great strengths of British science and enterprise, and sets out the government’s priorities for investment and support to 2020/2021, as well as the key principles that will underpin science and innovation policy during the years ahead.

Highlights of the strategy include:

  • £3bn to support individual capital projects and institutional capital to maintain the excellence of laboratories at universities and research institutes
  • £2.9bn towards large capital projects to support scientific ‘Grand Challenges’, including a £30m UK commitment to ‘XFEL’ – an international free electron laser project – and £20m to create an ‘Inspiring Science Capital Fund’ to get the public more engaged in science. Pre-committed projects such as Polar Ship and Square Kilometre Array will also benefit from additional investment
  • Up to £235m for a ‘Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials’ based in Manchester
  • £95m for European Space Agency programmes, including taking the lead in the next European Rover mission to Mars
  • £61m will be invested in the government-backed High Value Manufacturing Catapult and an additional £28 million will create a new National Formulation Centre within the Catapult to drive innovation and develop the next generation of technology products
  • A new offer of up to £10,000 of income contingent loans for postgraduate taught masters degrees

The Science and Innovation Strategy is underpinned by five key principles for all scientific research and development in the future: excellence, agility, collaboration, place, and openness.

From these principles the Strategy focuses on the government’s priority areas, how to nurture scientific and innovative talent, where it will invest in their infrastructure, how it will support research and catalyse innovation, and in which international projects and priorities it will invest.

Also included in the Strategy is the government’s commitment to continue investment in the Catapult Network.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “From cars to computers, ideas and ingenuity underpin British productivity and the UK is world-renowned for pushing boundaries in innovation.  We need to maintain our competitive edge so this strategy sets out a long-term plan for expanding our innovation infrastructure, creating high value jobs and putting science and innovation at the heart of economic growth.”

Greg Clark said: “Science and innovation will play an important part in defining the UK’s place in the world in the 21st century.  This strategy builds on the great strengths of British science and enterprise and will make sure the UK is the best place in the world to do science and grow an innovative business.

“We are committing £5.9bn capital to support UK scientific excellence out to 2021, including investing £3bn to support world-class researchers and labs in universities and research institutes. This support to our scientific infrastructure means we will equal the best in the world.

“The UK’s long and brilliant history of scientific discovery and breakthrough has continued to be deployed in recent weeks with British scientists having been central to the Rosetta Mission and helping to tackle Ebola in West Africa.”

Lee Hopley, EEF
Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF

Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, said: “There have been many positive developments in innovation support over the course of this government, and today’s Science and Innovation white paper places a key emphasis on the vital role that existing institutions such as Innovate UK and the network of Catapult centres already play in boosting UK innovation.

“For manufacturers taking the risky and often costly path of bringing new products and services to market, requires adequate resources and stability, so the commitment to these organisations will be widely welcomed.

“The UK needs many more companies prioritising innovation, working with the science base and collaborating with international partners to drive sustainable growth over the long term. We also need to see the government’s approach to using innovation to overcome some of the major socio-economic challenges facing the UK becoming a reality.

“This ambition needs to continue to be front of mind in future spending decisions but, doing so will not be straightforward. It will require a coordinated approach from government, a robust system for reviewing sector and technology support, plus a sustained funding settlement that allows Innovate UK and the Catapult centres to grow and support more companies. But the opportunity must be seized to ensure that in those areas where the UK has the potential to be great, it is great.”

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The Royal Academy of Engineering President, Professor Dame Ann Dowling commented: “Research is an essential part of the innovation process, which fuels economic growth and improves our quality of life. The Science & Innovation Strategy shows that government recognises this and understands the importance of long-term thinking to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of research and innovation.

“The UK has world-class universities, an extraordinary history of invention and innovation and many outstanding science- and engineering-based companies. In this increasingly competitive international environment, government has a crucial role to play in creating a policy environment that gives industry and others the confidence to invest and enables the UK to attract and retain the most talented researchers and innovators. I am delighted to have been invited to advise on how better to support this environment through stronger strategic partnerships between business and the research community.

“We need to build strong connections between the Science & Innovation Strategy and the Industrial Strategy. This will also require investment and initiatives to tackle the engineering skills crisis, such as the engineering conversion courses highlighted in today’s strategy.

“With a Fellowship drawn from both industry and academia, the Royal Academy of Engineering is in a unique position to support policy development and delivery in this area and will continue to work with government to maximise the contribution that engineering makes to the nation’s wealth and well-being.”