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CaSE highlights from a busy 2017

29 Nov 2017

Read Executive Director Dr Sarah Main’s report to the 2017 CaSE Annual General Meeting on 22nd November, summarising successes from the year.

Welcome and thank you for coming. It’s lovely to see CaSE members here this evening.  

As you know, the Campaign for Science and Engineering has a mission to ensure the UK has the skills, funding and policies to enable science and engineering to thrive. We have a growing membership that supports us in that mission: over one hundred organisations and over 600 individuals, from across academia, industry, learned societies and research charities. Collectively our members employ 360,000 people in the UK, and our industry and charity members invest around £35bn a year globally in R&D.

My task now is to provide you with some highlights of a busy year and outline our priorities for next year.

A year ago, we were buzzing with the excitement of our 30th anniversary celebrations – a hugely enjoyable event and accompanying comment series on the role of science and engineering in society over the next 30 years.

The year since then has been dominated by the reverberations of Brexit, in politics and policymaking, with the General Election in June providing a fulcrum to the year.

Our political engagement has been strong. We received responses from all major parties in our election campaign and engaged widely with new MPs, ministers and select committees post-election. During the election period, we raised concerns expressed by scientists on a more restrictive interpretation of purdah guidelines than in previous years and have been invited by Government to contribute to their thinking on future plans on this.

Throughout the year, CaSE has been at the table in important forums for Brexit. CaSE is a member of the science minister’s high level forum on science and Brexit as well as a trusted contributor to the Shadow Brexit team. We have expanded our reach in Government departments and Parliamentary committees. We are looking forward to our annual lecture tomorrow, to be given by the Chair of the Committee for Exiting the EU, Hilary Benn.

Our media presence has been strong this year. A particular highlight for the team was making it on to Newsnight for the first time in many years. That was the day the Government published its science and Brexit paper and the home office immigration plans were leaked to the press. I was interviewed for three different news programmes that day.

What has all this done for our policy impact?

CaSE worked collaboratively with its members to develop a coherent position document that would guide us through changing times. This is CaSE’s vision for UK science and engineering, with six priority areas for Government: education, immigration, collaboration, investment, regulation and evidence. It was informed by our members and has stood us in good stead as a statement of our calls for Government in domestic policy and Brexit negotiations.

I’ll take just a few of these areas in turn to give you some highlights of our achievements: investment, evidence, regulation and immigration.

On investment, CaSE led a coordinated call with the CBI and National Academies for R&D investment to reach 3% of GDP over 10 years. Not only was £4.7bn for R&D announced at that autumn statement, but we then saw three major parties echo that call in their manifestos and now have the goal for R&D investment to reach 2.4% of GDP enshrined in Government policy as part of the industrial strategy. We set out a trajectory for Government to reach its target and called for an interim milestone to increase public investment in R&D to 0.7% of GDP. Today’s budget announcements align surprisingly closely with the trajectory we set. Do take a look at our analysis on our website. We will continue to be vigilant and scrutinise future spending commitments. We will now be focussing on how this considerable and sobering level of public investment in R&D can be spent well to ensure it reaps benefits for individuals, for science and for the UK.

The structures and governance for research funding have changed over this year with the creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). We engaged closely with the Higher Education and Research Act that brought UKRI into being and are now working closely with the new UKRI team. We were pleased to welcome the Chief Executive of UKRI, Sir Mark Walport, to speak to our members at our Brexit workshop in September.

CaSE published this report on improving the use of evidence in policymaking in April of this year. It made a number of recommendations, including the appointment of Chief Scientific Advisers in the departments for Exiting the EU and International Trade. We pressed these recommendations through various channels and are pleased that the roles have recently been appointed. The CSA for international trade has just agreed to meet with us to discuss how good practice identified in our report can be implemented in his department to best enable the science community to support the department’s work.

One of the aspects of his work will be to consider regulation and standards in new trade negotiations. CaSE has worked hard to raise the issue of potential impacts of Brexit on regulation for research and innovation activities and the role science and engineering have in informing wider regulatory and trade issues. We submitted a paper of illustrative examples from members to the science minister’s Brexit forum and to officials in the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Immigration is a critical issue for our members and CaSE has worked collaboratively with a range of business and academic organisations on it this year. I am pleased that we have built relationships of trust with officials and groups such as the Migration Advisory Committee such that we can actively inform thinking in a robust and evidenced way while policy is being developed.

CaSE continues to work closely with its members in a variety of ways: through workshops, roundtables, forums and regular dialogue.

Last year we launched our five year strategy: to be a voice for science and engineering, having an impact for the long-term. Over the next twelve months, I have a few key priorities.

First is to make sure we have real policy impact – we are developing how we run specific and impactful campaigns, drawing on our membership and political advocates to help amplify our voice and using our media presence in a proactive way. Look out for campaigns on Brexit and on investment in R&D in the first half of next year.

Second is to ensure we are a truly nationwide organisation with a vibrant presence across the whole of the UK. We will be working to embed practices of engaging with members and policy issues in the devolved nations and around regions of England. And we will be working to expand the reach of our membership to capture science and engineering in all its settings.

Third is to ensure that as an organisation we are ‘match fit’, to borrow a phrase from the Prime Minister, ensuring we are looking after the team internally supporting and developing each person in the team, have stable financial growth, and are ready to meet evolving regulatory requirements, such as on data privacy, with the support and oversight of our board.

I look forward to letting you know how we get on with that next year.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the CaSE team who deliver this work and Graeme and the board for their support.

Details of new appointments to the CaSE Board of Directors, made at the AGM, can be found here.