Our policy team give their take on the formation of a new governmental Department for Science Innovation and Technology.
The Government has created a new Department for Science Innovation and Technology
08 Feb 2023
The new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has a fantastic opportunity to focus on the big issues facing the UK R&D sector from a position of influence in Government. At CaSE we would like to see the department prioritise:
- Finalising association for the UK with Horizon Europe, to ensure access to world-leading R&D collaborations.
- Ensure that there is sufficient support for innovative small businesses following changes that could make the R&D tax credit less generous.
- Co-ordinate skills policy across Government, so that the UK attracts and train the most talented scientists and researchers to work in the UK, a vital component of a productive and growing economy.
Yesterday the UK Government announced the creation of the Department for Science Innovation and Technology, and the accompanying appointment of Michelle Donelan MP as Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. The new department merges the science brief from BEIS with the technology brief taken from DCMS. The rest of BEIS is split between a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and the Department for Business and Trade, which also incorporates the former Department for International Trade. The restructure was pledged by Rishi Sunak when he originally ran for the leadership back in Summer 2022.
The announcement of a new specialised Department for Science Innovation and Technology is another sign of the importance Government places on science and innovation. The Prime Minister has already recognised the vital importance of R&D and innovation in driving growth, with innovation forming one of three ‘growth priorities’. In his Autumn Statement in 2022 the Chancellor reaffirmed the commitment to increasing research and development (R&D) investment to £20bn by 2024/25. The creation of a new dedicated department will help to deliver the Government’s ambitions in this area.
A new Secretary of State for Science can help ensure cross-Governmental buy in and support by championing science at the cabinet table, whether that is in investment, skills development, or elsewhere. CaSE have long highlighted the importance of cross- Governmental capacity for science and technology and called for a cabinet level position.
It is vital, however, that the practicalities of making changes in Whitehall aren’t allowed to take away from the time and resources needed to drive forward the promising agenda the Government has previously set out. In the short term, office transitions, administrative changes and IT infrastructure will likely take up time.
We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State and her department and welcome this Government’s ongoing commitment to R&D.
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