Skip to content

General Election 2019: Our asks to all political parties

07 Nov 2019

Assistant Director Daniel Rathbone sets out a little more detail on what we are asking from all political parties ahead of the General Election

Yesterday was the first official day of the election campaign ahead of the General Election on 12 December. While it is only just over 2 years since the last one, I think over the last few months it has been clear than an election would happen sooner rather than later. So, here at CaSE, we have been giving some thought to what we would ask all political parties to commit to in a General Election campaign. We have published these three ‘asks’ for all political parties in our Manifesto for Science and Engineering.

Over the coming days we will be writing to Party Leaders setting out these asks and why we think they are so important for science and engineering in the UK. We will also be asking them to tell us what their party’s policies are for science and engineering and we will be publishing their responses. We hope this will enable members of the R&D community in the UK, and the wider public, to make informed decisions about who to vote for and we will work to hold party leaders to these promises throughout the term of the next Parliament.

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.

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 research 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.

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.

Our work leading up to the 2019 General Election includes making policy recommendations for parties to adopt, writing to the leaders of political parties and analysing key commitments from each party from their manifestos on publication.

Read CaSE's election asks