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What to make of DSIT’s first year?

14 Feb 2024

Dr Florence Young

Policy Intern

DSIT released a series of announcements as it marked its first anniversary on 9th February 2024. Below we take a look at some of these updates.

Last week the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) released a package of announcements to mark its first anniversary, outlining achievements in 2023/24 and detailing ambitions for the year ahead.


Among the announcements was an update on progress against the Government’s Science and Technology (S&T) Framework. This is a clear and welcome signal of the Department’s commitment to taking a long-term strategic approach to supporting UK R&D, something which CaSE has long advocated for.

This format of publishing a progress update to the S&T Framework not only demonstrates the commendable amount that has been achieved in DSIT’s first year, but also enables clear accountability for progress towards previous and future commitments. We at CaSE are also pleased to see evidence of a joined-up approach to delivering on the Framework, with different strategic areas being led by relevant Government departments.


DSIT confirmed that £19.4 billion of R&D funding has been provided this year, a record level and very close to the £20 billion promised. The update also drew attention to the UK’s recent association to Horizon Europe, with the goal to increase applications to the programme by UK R&D firms in 2024. The Government, alongside the European Commission, and others in the sector, must now work hard to encourage applications and drive participation rates back up.


The update included a welcome emphasis on developing both physical and digital infrastructure in the UK, recognising the importance this plays in supporting R&D and attracting top talent. Our work on the business R&D environment has revealed that there are barriers to businesses accessing the right infrastructure to scale and grow, with an urgent shortage of available scale up lab space for businesses.

Regional Strengths

DSIT also launched a new UK innovation Cluster Mapping Tool, which highlights regions of sector-specific R&D intensity in the UK. This tool is a promising step towards delivering on CaSE’s recommendations to build on existing R&D excellence and develop regional branding for innovation, by helping private investors identify and support local R&D firms situated in areas of regional strength. Maintaining and promoting this new resource will be essential, as our latest evidence underscored the continued need to better leverage regional strengths to attract R&D investment.

The announcement remained quiet on a few crucial areas

There was minimal reference to the important role universities play in the UK R&D system and the vital need for improvements to their financial sustainability. The urgency of this issue was outlined last year in Sir Paul Nurse’s review of the research organisational landscape, and acknowledged by the Government .

Additionally, although the update included bold targets on attracting and retaining top global talent, it failed to acknowledge or address the current barriers to achieving this goal. The recent increases in visa costs, NHS surcharges, and salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa, along with the rhetoric surrounding immigration policy coming from the Government risks signalling to the international R&D community that they are not welcome in the UK. This is at odds with the ambition to be an attractive global hub for research and innovation. Deterring foreign students, scientists and innovators in this way will have detrimental consequences across the whole sector and further compound the financial pressures facing R&D-intensive universities, whose research programmes rely on cross-subsidy by international students. CaSE continues to call on the UK Government to support a more resilient university research landscape and to reduce the cost and burden of visa applications to attract top researchers to the UK.

Our work on all of the issues covered in the DSIT update will continue. Even in areas where progress has been made, it is important as a sector that we continue to advocate for science and engineering, especially in a General Election year.