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We need joined up education and skills provision to support the UK’s R&D ambitions

14 Jul 2022

CaSE is starting a longer-term piece of work investigating the skills needs of an R&D intensive UK

Creating a high skill and innovative economy is crucial to driving the UK’s future economic prosperity, with science, research and innovation central to this. Research and innovation can help solve global challenges, create new careers, and generate world-changing technologies. Skills provision is also an essential dimension of the UK Government’s ‘science superpower’ ambition. Wider skills provision will be needed to meet the requirements of an expanding R&D sector, and ensure that everyone can participate in and benefit from a more innovative UK. To deliver on this ambition will require a holistic look at skills policy across Government to deliver lasting results, from science teaching in schools and STEM careers advice, through to higher and further education, apprenticeships, lifelong learning, and immigration.

Skills for a more innovative economy

recent survey published by the Open University and the British Chambers of Commerce highlights the scale of the challenge – in the UK seven out of ten firms across all sizes, sectors and regions are experiencing skills shortages, with the problem worsening. In particular, the shortage of STEM skills in the UK is an on-going problem and is estimated to cost the economy £1.5bn per year. The UK Government has suggested that the R&D sector will need at least an additional 150,000 researchers and technicians by 2030 to sustain the UK’s target of 2.4% R&D intensity.

The need for wider skills provision to equip the public to enable participation is often overlooked as an area of focus. However, this is an integral part of creating the long-lasting effect and sustainability of a more innovative economy. This can ensure that people develop new skills needed in the face of technological transformation but also foster widespread public support and buy-in for the benefits of R&I. Therefore, to deliver lasting results will require a concerted effort to join up skills policy across government.

What CaSE is doing

CaSE is starting a new piece of work to examine the needs and requirements across the skills landscape. Recognising the scale of the challenge, we will draw together some of the important work done by other stakeholders across the sector and our own Inspiring Innovation report, with a view to creating a holistic picture that identifies some of the cross-cutting challenges and pinch points.

To this end, we will convene our members and other stakeholders to consider different areas of skills provision identifying those areas where there are bottlenecks. In each area, we will draw together evidence and challenges on the skills needs for this economic transformation. We have already started engagement with the Department for Education and the Office for Science and Technology Strategy. We hope this work will help create the landscape that will enable science and engineering to thrive across the UK and support the UK’s ambitions of becoming a leader in these areas.