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CaSE Manifesto for Science and Engineering 2024

The next Government must commit to using research and innovation as the route to improving people’s lives and livelihoods in the UK

Investing in research and innovation helps us solve the problems facing people in the UK, and across the world. This investment improves people’s lives and livelihoods, creating new jobs and future industries, new educational opportunities, and the economic growth that will pay for our local and public services and strengthen our communities.

It supports people working in universities and businesses across the country, helping them tackle climate change, develop new medical treatments, and come up with energy-saving inventions.

CaSE calls on the next Government to commit to invest in Research and Development (R&D) for the long-term, support the skills the UK needs, maximise the local economic impact of that investment and support the environment for business R&D.

A united R&D sector

Alongside the actions CaSE are calling for in this manifesto, we recently collaborated with other leaders of the UK R&D sector to issue a joint statement of our united position on the importance of R&D for the UK.

Commit to long term and sustainable R&D investment

Commit to a long-term plan for R&D investment and set a target to be a leading country globally

There should be continued, long-term government commitment to increase R&D investment. A stable and predictable plan, supported by sustained investment, is vital to help research and innovation thrive in a way to drive economic growth and prosperity across the UK. In a globally competitive research landscape, the UK must look to secure its place among leading science nations.

Continue to implement the Science and Technology Framework:

Continue to implement the Science and Technology Framework and to monitor progress on recommendations. This will give the research community and the private sector the stability and predictability they need to invest in research and innovation.

Set long-term budgets for UKRI:

Provide long term funding settlements for UKRI. A multi-spending review budget for all parts of UKRI gives it the ability to plan strategically.

Implement science capability across government:

Continue to drive forward the recommendations within the Science Capability Review to ensure that R&D can be better utilised across government to improve policy outcomes and public services.

Utilise Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs):

Continue to make progress towards better utilisation of PSREs to meet the policy and research needs of Government departments.

Improve the financial sustainability of the research system

The long-term financial sustainability of the research system is vital to ensure it continues to contribute to economic growth and improving the lives and livelihoods of people across the UK. In particular, it is critical to ensure that university finances are sustainable across their teaching and research activities. Universities play a pivotal role in the research landscape through their teaching, research and knowledge exchange.

Address the financial sustainability of the university sector:

Introduce measures to support universities to achieve a sustainable financial model across both their teaching and research activities. There must be a strategy behind the chosen fixed economic costing (FEC) level that takes the research deficit seriously.

Public Opinion Insights

CaSE’s Discovery Decade programme’s major study of public attitudes to R&D demonstrates that the public think R&D investment is important and that it should be a priority for politicians of all parties:

70%

A majority (70%) think it is important for the Government to invest in R&D

58%

More than half (58%) think funding research generally should be a high or top priority for UK political parties

Unlock skills for a more research-intensive economy

Support and coordinate a more integrated skills system

The UK government and devolved administrations must support and coordinate a more integrated skills system to build a long-term and sustainable supply of skilled R&D talent. This should include a focus on attracting more young people to consider a career in science and engineering, increasing flexibility and widening routes into R&D careers, and supporting a more diverse R&D workforce across all roles and stages.

Attract and retain the best international R&D talent

The UK must attract and retain the best international talent and support international collaboration through participating in international schemes such as Horizon Europe and future EU Framework Programmes. It is critical that the immigration and visa system, and associated costs, do not act as a barrier to attracting skilled scientists and researchers. There also needs to be a concerted government effort to change its rhetoric to create and promote a more welcoming environment.

Reduce the upfront cost of UK visas:

Reduce the upfront cost of UK visas in line with international competitors. This includes reversing or mitigating the increases in visa applications costs and Immigration Health Surcharge.

Clarify and communicate eligibility for visa route:

This should include clarifying eligibility for the Global Talent and Skilled Worker Visas and ensuring the visa system has diverse routes to allow recruitment into all research roles.

Increase visa flexibility:

Introduce a short-term mobility route to enable overseas STEM researchers to collaborate with UK scientists on a range of timescales.

Support businesses to navigate the visa system:

Improve support for smaller businesses navigating the visa system. The Home Office should develop guidance packs for the visa process, including a step-by-step guide designed specifically for SMEs.

De-risk visa sponsorship for businesses:

Provide mechanisms to de-risk visa costs for businesses, such as a process to secure refunds for potential losses, or a payment scheme only activated upon an employee starting.

Mitigate the impact of visa changes on students and universities:

Promote the UK as an attractive destination to overseas students and mitigate the impact of changes to visa fees and the eligibility of dependents for students.

Public Opinion Insights

CaSE’s Discovery Decade programme’s major study of public attitudes to R&D demonstrates that the public think positively about R&D jobs, want the UK to train the next generation of talent, and support international talent coming to the UK:

79%

A majority (79%) want the UK to train and develop more scientists and innovators from this country

64%

A majority described R&D jobs as important (64%) and interesting (60%)

80%

More than 80% said that skills needed for jobs in R&D are important for children to learn at school

72%

A majority (72%) say they want more of the UK’s best scientists and innovators to work in the UK

Build on and leverage regional strengths in R&D

Maximise the local economic impact of R&D strengths across the UK

There should be action to strengthen local innovation ecosystems and improve regional absorptive capacity for research and innovation. Investing in regional R&D can play a significant role in delivering a more research-intensive UK and create opportunities for new jobs and industries across all parts of the UK. This will require that central and local government work together to improve coordination between local and national priorities for R&D. While the UK government needs an overarching national strategy for R&D, it is also important to provide regions with the funding and freedom to execute locally. Local leadership is important in driving forward each region’s strategy and enabling the effects of R&D investment to directly benefit the local community.

Support regions to market their strengths and capabilities:

Support regions to clarify their distinctive strengths and develop their pitch for national and overseas investment.

Facilitate national/local government coordination:

Central and local government should work together to improve national coordination between local and national R&D priorities.

Public Opinion Insights

CaSE’s Discovery Decade programme’s major study of public attitudes to R&D found that the public thinks R&D can bring regional and local benefits:

60%

More than 60% of people in all regions say it is important that their region carries out a lot of R&D, citing local jobs and inwards investment

66%

Two-thirds (66%) would support an R&D lab being built in their local area, citing well-paid jobs and benefits to the local economy

Drive business investment in R&D

Provide an attractive and competitive environment for businesses to invest in R&D

Create and enable an environment that incentivises businesses to invest in R&D activity in the UK. Stable and predictable policy commitments are vital to give businesses the confidence to keep on investing in research and innovation. In addition, it is important to fill gaps in support across different stages of research and innovation, and provide adequate resourcing and expertise to deliver and implement existing policy.