Read the Liberal Democrat’s response to CaSE’s letter, setting out the party’s commitments that are relevant to science and engineering
Election response 2019: Liberal Democrats
09 Dec 2019
In the 2019 UK General Election, CaSE wrote to the leaders of all the political parties, inviting them to set out their party’s policies on science and engineering by answering a series of questions on how they would:
Ensure that high quality science, technology, engineering and maths education and training is sustainably funded, fit for purpose, and open to all?
Ensure the UK has a migration system that supports science and engineering mobility for excellence, skills, education and collaboration?
Maintain and build on the UK’s leadership and collaboration in research and innovation internationally?
Invest at a level and in such a way as to enhance the UK’s research and innovation environment?
Uphold and champion the use of evidence and science advice in all Government decisions, documents and messaging?
Ensure the regulatory environment facilitates trade and access to markets, and promotes innovation?
This comes after CaSE published its policy recommendations for the political parties to adopt.
Response from The Liberal Democrats
Thank you for the letter and the opportunity to outline Liberal Democrat policies on research and innovation.
Liberal Democrats want to lay the foundations for the UK to be the best place in the world for innovation-led businesses in the long-term – to be a place where people come from across the EU and the world to turn their ideas into reality.
We recognise that research and innovation are essential to solving the key challenges that are facing the UK and are committed to reaching 3% of GDP invested in R&D as soon as possible. In government, we would immediately set about working with universities and industry to develop a roadmap for this objective: we would aim to publish this within six months and, as part of this, would set out a long-term budget for public investment in meeting this target. This would enable us to effectively work with industry to achieve this objective.
Getting to 3% of GDP invested in R&D will also be greatly helped by remaining in the EU. Liberal Democrats are the only national party fighting this election with a pledge to stop Brexit. We know that the UK’s position in the EU has played a crucial role in helping to build our position as a world-leader in scientific research and development. Membership of the EU means freedom of movement, giving universities and businesses access to the skills and expertise that they need; it means access to EU funding for research and innovation; it means access to the large facilities that are essential to research.
Maintaining the UK’s position in the EU is the single best way to ensure that the UK remains a partner of choice for international collaborations and would protect the UK’s access to Horizon funding. And, in continuing freedom of movement, we would continue to see short- and long-term movement of highly skilled people, specialist technicians and students – as well as their families.
Liberal Democrat policies on research and innovation
1. Ensuring that high quality science, technology, engineering and maths education and training is sustainably funded, fit for purpose and open to all.
Liberal Democrats will reverse the damage already done to universities by the uncertainty of Brexit by keeping the UK at the heart of the EU – protecting their access to experts and funding. We will also strengthen the Office for Students, with the aim of ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education.
We will oversee a major expansion of high-quality apprenticeships including Higher Apprenticeships, backed up by new sector-led National Colleges. technologies, to help match skills and people and will invest an extra £1 billion per year in further education.
2. Ensuring that the UK has a migration system that supports science and engineering mobility for experience, skills, education and collaboration.
Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit, keep the UK in the EU and protect freedom of movement. This is an essential part of ensuring that the migration system works for science and engineering – it enables UK universities and businesses to access skills and partnerships from across the EU and ensures that there are no barriers to this at all.
In addition to this, we would build a fair and effective migration system that worked to support science and engineering. We would remove migration policy from the Home Office and split policy-making between the Department for Business (for work visas) and Department for Education (for student visas) to ensure that migration policy responds to the needs of business and universities. We would replace the existing Tier 2 work visa system – and its rigid salary caps – with a more flexible system that brings in the skills and expertise that the country needs. We would also introduce a new two-year visa for students to work after graduation.
3. Maintaining and building on the UK’s leadership and collaboration in research and innovation.
Liberal Democrats will keep the UK in the EU and maintain the UK’s position as a leader in research and innovation. We know that international collaboration makes the scientific community stronger and means high quality research and we would ensure that collaboration is able to continue. The best way to ensure that collaboration is to stay in the EU, which will allow full participation in all EU research programmes and Horizon Europe.
4. Investing at a level and in such a way as to enhance the UK’s research and innovation environment.
Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and ensure that the UK retains access to EU science and innovation funding. We are committed to increasing spending on R&D to 3% of GDP and will support innovation as well, with a goal of doubling innovation spend across the economy. We will ensure that we boost R&D spend outside the Golden Triangle, building on the strengths of existing clusters around the country. We will create more Catapult innovation and technology centres and back private investment in, for example, zero-carbon and environmental innovation. We will frontload investment in infrastructure and skills to ensure that the UK has the R&D capability and skilled workforce needed to grow to 3% at speed.
5. Upholding and championing the use of evidence and science advice in all Government decisions, documents and messaging.
Liberal Democrats are committed to evidence-based policy and will uphold and champion the use of evidence and scientific advice across government. We believe that basing decisions on robust evidence improves policy outcomes, improves credibility and public trust and helps ensure transparency throughout the process.
As liberals, we are committed to openness and transparency: we believe this is the best way for government to be held to account. There is a valuable role for scientific advisers in this process: providing both in terms of promoting evidence-based policy, but also in providing scrutiny of evaluations of policies. When we announce policies, we would want to also publish the underpinning body of evidence and we would also publish independent impact assessments of our policies.
6. Ensuring that the regulatory environment facilitates trade and access to markets, and promotes innovation.
Liberal Democrats would stop Brexit and keep the UK in the EU. This would keep us aligned to the EU and ensure that we maintain a regulatory environment that protects trade and promotes innovation. We would also build on the industrial strategy developed by Liberal Democrat ministers in government.
We look forward to working with you in the coming months.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
You can read all CaSE’s 2019 election work and other responses to our letter
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