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Reflections on my time at CaSE

20 Jan 2022

Former Policy Officer James Tooze shares his insights into what it is like to work at CaSE

When I first started at CaSE in 2017, the future prospects for science and engineering in the UK where somewhat mixed. Still fighting from the flat-cash settlement for R&D handed down by the coalition Government in 2010, the result of the UK-EU referendum threatened to cause greater uncertainty and make life harder for CaSE members. However, it was also in 2016 that the then Government signaled its intention to support R&D in the UK, funding would be channeled through the National Productivity Investment Fund to invest in R&D and the formation of UKRI was on the horizon following the Nurse Review.

It was indeed, though, the referendum result that brought about the Policy Officer role and the vision of CaSE and a dozen members gave me the opportunity to play a role in supporting science and engineering. I was relatively fresh out of university at this point, lacking in experience but more than happy to dive in to any spreadsheet or research topic. Fortunately for me, I was given the chance to work as part of such a fantastic small organisation that have well been known for ‘punching above their weight’, and would continue to give me experiences and opportunities that I could scarcely believe.

I have been involved in so many policy projects over the past four years, right across the science and engineering landscape, that it is difficult to pick one favourite endeavour. From early on, I was able to be involved in significant projects that helped to yield real and tangible policy change to support the sector. The one that sticks out is tackling the issues of Tier 2 visas, with arbitrary caps affecting the ability for companies to recruit talented overseas individuals. After a longer than ideal battle with a Freedom of Information request, the story that CaSE was able to create and generate a snowball effect in the media and Houses of Parliament led to significant policy changes, and no such caps are now placed on skilled workers. It has been wonderful I have also been able to play a very small role in more positive changes to the immigration system, such as overseas research activities not harming the chances of gaining settled status in the UK and the extension of post-study work visas or international students.

It has also been fantastic to work for an organisation that has helped to play a role in furthering the UK’s emphasis on R&D investment. CaSE had joined many across the sector to call for a greater investment in R&D as a proportion of GDP, and the UK Government set its sights on 2.4% by 2027. Being able to develop a model to project how much public investment would be required to reach this goal was incredibly satisfying for me, not least in being able to support the debate over public R&D investment but also for the figures CaSE produced to be mentioned in Parliament on a few occasions. Indeed this model would continue to be used up until the latest Spending Review, showing how much future investment could be lost should the Government fall short of its own investment target. It was incredibly pleasing to see the settlements announced in last years’ Spending Review, and hopefully a model showing potential shortfalls won’t have to be used in the future!

There are many other personal highlights of mine that have been afforded to me over the past four years, one of the best things being going to meetings and visiting CaSE members in all four countries of the UK and hearing about their concerns and priorities. I’ve also had the privilege to visit the Houses of Parliament on many occasions, something I never thought I would be able to do, which became even more surreal when I was invited to speak in front of the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee in 2019.

None of this would have been possible, of course, without being given the support and belief of the CaSE team and our members. I couldn’t have hoped, or wished, for a greater opportunity at this stage in my career and owe a great deal to everyone who has helped me over the years. I would recommend CaSE to anyone, and with over two weeks left to apply for two roles then I would encourage you to! To be able to work in policy and have a genuine impact in your work is a wonderful feeling and CaSE is definitely a great place to do just that.