The UK Government has published its response to the independent review of the UK’s research development and innovation organisational landscape. Published in March 2023 and led by Sir Paul Nurse, the Landscape Review recognised the many strengths of the UK’s research and innovation (R&I) landscape, and outlined a series of recommendations for how the Government can improve the UK’s R&I capabilities.
CaSE welcomes the Government’s response to the Landscape Review
01 Dec 2023
CaSE takes a look at the Government’s response to Sir Paul Nurse’s independent review of the UK’s research development and innovation organisational landscape.
It is positive to see that a lot of the recommendations in the Review have been acknowledged by the Government. The response has focused on existing strategies and actions the Government is already taking to support the UK’s R&I endeavour. In particular, the response has emphasised the creation of the Department for Science Innovation and Technology, and how the new dedicated department can provide a more strategic focus to drive forward the changes that are needed, whether that be championing organisations or developing improved data-driven capability.
The response emphasised the importance of the Science and Technology (S&T) Framework as the vehicle for driving forward the recommendations of the Review. The Review and the response will be integrated into the implementation of the S&T Framework in the longer term. It is important the Government continues to provide a long-term vision, and stability and clarity in their strategy, to support a successful research and innovation landscape. Following through with the Science & Technology Framework is a good first step in giving the research community and the private sector the stability – and predictability – they need to invest in research and innovation.
The Government’s response has focused on short-term actions it can take to address the broader challenges in the Review. There are, however, a number of areas where the Government response lacked a clear commitment to fixing the issues outlined. Below we take a look at some of the areas.
Financial sustainability of research
A major element of the Landscape Review.
While the Government response recognised there are challenges in this area, it does not provide any measures to address it – instead it refers to ongoing exploration and reviews in this space.
Business R&I investment
The Government’s response on unlocking business investment pointed to measures outlined in existing strategies.
There is opportunity for the Government to build on this and drive forward measures to make the UK an attractive place for business.
In its response, to the importance of research talent and long term planning, the Government has pointed to some existing and planned measures to attract R&I talent to the UK.
These measures are welcome, however there is work to be done to make the UK skills immigration system competitive on the world stage.
Financial sustainability of research
Financial sustainability of research was a major emphasis of the Review. It was highlighted that university research in particular faces shortfalls in funding, and requires more complete ‘end-to-end’ funding of research activities to fully support research activity. Funding deficits have been partly sustained through increasing reliance on cross-subsidy from private and commercial sources, with a substantial proportion coming from international student fees. However, cross-subsidy remains inadequate and can create vulnerabilities in the research system. While the Government response recognised these challenges and stressed the importance of financial sustainability to the research landscape, it does not provide any measures to address it – instead it refers to ongoing exploration and reviews in this space, including analysis on university financial sustainability being published by UKRI. The Government has suggested that any evidence will be considered in the context of a future Spending Review. It is essential that the Government works to support a more resilient research landscape.
Business R&I investment
The Government’s response on unlocking business investment pointed to measures outlined in existing strategies, including the S&T Framework and the 2021 Innovation Strategy. The Government also pointed to plans for leveraging business investment in priority areas, including health and life sciences, net zero, transformative technologies and security. These strategies provide good foundations for supporting business investment, and there is an opportunity for the Government to coordinate and drive forward measures to make the UK an attractive and competitive environment for businesses to invest in R&I.
The Landscape Review provided a welcome focus on the importance of investing in R&I talent at all stages, as well as the importance of long-term planning around education and skills to support this. In its response, the Government has pointed to some of the existing and planned measures to attract R&I talent to the UK, including the Global Talent Visa and the newly announced Discovery Fellowships, backed by a £250 million endowment, aimed at attracting mid-career STEM researchers. It is also positive to see the response commit to the continued implementation of the actions and recommendations of the R&D People and Culture Strategy.
Despite these welcome measures the UK visa system remains one of the most expensive in the world, which undermines the UK’s ambitions for research and innovation. CaSE urges the Government to review its approach to visas, which are currently costly and burdensome, making it difficult to attract the best researchers to the UK.
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An unattributed summary of a roundtable organised by CaSE, sponsored by LifeArc, on Wednesday 13th December 2023.
An unattributed summary of a roundtable organised by CaSE at the White City Campus, Imperial College London, sponsored by LifeArc, on Thursday 7th December 2023.
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