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Government’s science and technology plans questioned in new Lords report

By August 5, 2022No Comments

A new report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, entitled “Science and technology superpower”: more than a slogan?, has called for the Government to provide more clarity regarding their science and technology implementation plans. The Committee has welcomed the Government’s stated ambitions but warns that without concrete detail their slogans risk becoming empty in meaning.

Among the science and technology commitments which have been welcomed are: the aim to become a “science and tech superpower” by 2030, boosting R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and increasing public funding for R&D. The Committee called on the next administration to stick to these commitments, which will be vital to public services and increase economic growth.

The current Government’s strategy has been muddled, the report states. Many government bodies are confused as to their specific responsibilities and therefore science policy has suffered. An overarching vision, with clear and specific objectives, is key to avoid inaction or paralysis.

The report noted its disappointment at the UK’s international science standing following the Horizon Europe standoff and cuts to International Development Assistance, which risk damaging the domestic science base. Moreover, the Government’s plans to leverage private sector funding to reach the 2.4% R&D target were deemed unconvincing, with reforms unlikely to be successful. Industry, too, has not sufficiently engaged with the Government’s strategy.

Four key recommendations were outlined in the report:

  • The Government must produce a better-defined science and technology strategy, encompassing measurable objectives in priority areas and a clear implementation plan
  • The Government must explain what the “own-collaborate-access” framework means for key areas of technology and how it will be applied
  • The Government must rehabilitate its international image through the reparation of relationships with international science and research partners
  • The Government should set out its specific reforms to areas such as public procurement, regulations, and R&D tax credits, explaining how they will support innovation. Taskforces for each area need to be established with a specific point of contact for industry feedback

Lord Krebs, author of the report, said: “UK science and technology remains strong and respected around the world, but they will not deliver their full potential for the UK with an inconsistent and unclear science policy from Government. A new administration must retain the ambition for science and technology and develop a clear plan for delivery.”

The report can be read in full here.

Natalie Creaney