Skip to content

Election 2019 – CaSE’s letter to the party leaders

25 Nov 2019

In the run up to the 2019 UK General Election, CaSE has written to the leaders of all the political parties, inviting them to set out their party’s policies on science and engineering.

This comes after CaSE published its policy recommendations for the political parties to adopt.

Update: We have now received responses from the Liberal Democratsthe Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

You can read CaSE’s full letter below:

Dear Party Leader

There are a few areas in which the UK truly leads the world. Research and development is one of them. The UK has benefited from its research strength both culturally and economically. It puts the UK in prime position to shape the future direction of new technologies, industries and sectors. But these benefits aren’t inevitable and Government action is needed to realise them.

Research and innovation are essential to solving challenges facing Government and citizens. reaching net-zero carbon emissions, tackling anti-microbial resistance, cutting transport times, supporting an ageing population to work for longer and more, all require research and innovation.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) is the UK’s leading independent advocate for science and engineering. Our mission is to ensure that the UK has the policies, funding and skills to help science and engineering thrive. Collectively our members employ over 336,000 people in the UK, and our industry and charity members invest over £32bn a year globally in R&D. We are funded entirely by our members and receive no funding from government.

Across our membership, from large corporates to universities and professional bodies, leaders are concerned that the next Government establishes the best possible conditions for research and innovation to thrive in the UK. Based on our work with our members over the last few months we have drawn up the following three most important commitments we ask you to make to support science and engineering. These are:

  • A long-term plan to reach 3% of GDP invested in R&D by the end of the next decade, with planned annual increases for public investment in R&D.

Global businesses cite the UK’s strong academic base as a reason for investing in R&D in the UK. Members have told CaSE that leadership and long-term R&D investment from Government enables them to plan and gives industry confidence to keep on investing in R&D. At a national level, investment in R&D, along with complementary investment in infrastructure and skills, is linked to core national aims of productivity growth and economic and social returns across the UK.

If the UK doesn’t invest in R&D, it risks falling further behind our international competitors. For example, Germany has committed to an annual 3% increasing in funding for research institutes until 2023 through its Pact for Research and Innovation.

A long-term plan gives confidence for long-term R&D investment decisions by the private sector and for long-term partnerships between the public and private sector. Every country that has successfully raised R&D intensity by a significant margin over the period of a decade has done so through raising both public and private investment. Furthermore, for companies that have previously chosen to invest in R&D elsewhere, a bold, long-term, investment plan, could catch their attention and make the UK a candidate destination for new investment.

A long-term budget will enable the development of a detailed strategy and delivery plan that will allow for efficient use of the funding, minimizing wastage and maximizing leverage. It would enable Government to consider the appropriate balance of funding and make transparent, evidence-based decisions about how to most effectively use public R&D investment and levers.

  • Make the UK a partner of choice for international collaborations, including with the EU.

UK research and innovation has been greatly supported by global collaborations, including EU funding programmes. To date, the UK has secured €6bn of Horizon 2020 funding since the inception of the programme in 2014. The UK is the second largest recipient of funding, and most UK universities receive between 15-35% of their competitive funding from Europe.

The evidence shows that international collaboration makes science stronger and leads to higher quality research. The best route to that collaboration in Europe is full participation in EU research programmes. Therefore, the UK must secure full participation in Horizon Europe when it begins in 2021. Being part of Horizon Europe has intangible benefits for UK science, which are as important, if not more important, than the financial benefits. These intangible benefits should be protected as far as possible, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process.

The intangible benefits identified by the participants of a workshop co-hosted by CaSE and the Wellcome Trust in September 2018 include: competition for EU funding raises standards and accelerates research progress, participation in EU programmes provides access to advanced facilities and access to large data sets unavailable in the UK alone and participation in EU programmes helps attract talented researchers to the UK.

  • An immigration system that works for Science and Engineering

For research-intensive organisations and professionals, movement of labour is not just necessary but is greatly beneficial. Movement of people, and therefore of ideas, has been shown to enhance the quality of scientific research outputs in the UK. While training of a domestic workforce is vital, migrant workers advance and promote UK science and engineering to the immense economic and social benefit of this country.

The current migration system places a large burden of bureaucracy and cost on research and innovation organisations, which poses significant problems to recruiting the most talented scientists, engineers and technicians from overseas. Whether a future streamlined system applies to everyone from outside the UK, or just to non-EEA citizens, a future system should make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for scientists and engineers to come and work in the UK.

An immigration system that supports research and innovation should enable short and long-term movement of:

  • Highly skilled people – e.g. researchers, engineers, academics, business founders (characteristics include PhD level roles, Chartered Engineer status)
  • Specialist technicians – e.g. data analysts, cell culture specialists, AI experts
  • Students – including undergraduate, postgraduate taught and PhD students
  • Dependants of these individuals

The public also contribute to and benefit from science and engineering. Therefore, we would like to publish your written response to the questions below. We would be delighted to work with you to inform and develop your party’s science and engineering policies over the next Parliamentary term.

How will your party:

  1. ensure that high quality science, technology, engineering and maths education and training is sustainably funded, fit for purpose, and open to all?
  2. ensure the UK has a migration system that supports science and engineering mobility for excellence, skills, education and collaboration?
  3. maintain and build on the UK’s leadership and collaboration in research and innovation internationally?
  4. invest at a level and in such a way as to enhance the UK’s research and innovation environment?
  5. uphold and champion the use of evidence and science advice in all Government decisions, documents and messaging?
  6. ensure the regulatory environment facilitates trade and access to markets, and promotes innovation?

The UK Government is guardian of one of the most high-performing and successful science bases in the world. Your political support will ensure science and engineering continues to be the jewel that distinguishes our position on the world stage and brings improvements in prosperity and quality of life to the British public.

We look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sarah Main
Executive Director