Skip to content

What might recent political appointments mean for R&D?

10 Jul 2024

Camilla d'Angelo

Policy Manager

Following the Labour party’s landslide win in last week’s general election, Sir Keir Starmer is now Prime Minister. Over the last few days, Starmer has made a series of appointments to oversee science and research. We take a look at what this might mean for science, engineering and broader R&D.

A new Prime Minister

Keir Starmer’s election campaign recognised the critical role of science, engineering and broader R&D for the UK’s ability to innovate and produce economic growth. With a large majority, it is hoped that the new Government will bring greater stability for the R&D sector. The signals we have had so far indicate a focus on long-term, stable frameworks, which is vital to enable the R&D sector to plan and invest with confidence.

Big decisions will need to be made about future Government spending and investment in the coming weeks and months and we urge the PM to take a long-term view on investment in research and innovation capability. CaSE looks forward to working with the new Government to develop plans for ten-year funding as part of a wider strategic framework for R&D.

Peter Kyle, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology

Peter Kyle has been appointed Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, after serving in Starmer’s shadow cabinet in the same role. This is welcome news and the continuity in post will help to provide much needed stability for the sector.

In one of his first announcements, Peter Kyle has committed to bolster DSIT as the digital centre of Government to “power up our public services to improve the lives and life chances of people through the application of science and technology.” He has also committed to ensuring DSIT will accelerate investment and innovation through science and research.

Having a dedicated cabinet-level post for science is a great sign of the importance of R&D in the UK, and something we are glad the new Labour Government has chosen to continue. We hope that Peter Kyle will continue to use the Secretary of State position to ensure cross-Governmental buy in and support by championing science at the cabinet table, whether that is in investment, skills development, or from elsewhere. This support will be essential in tackling the big issues and uncertainty currently facing the sector, such as the financial pressures facing universities and immigration.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Science Minister

CaSE are pleased to see Sir Patrick Vallance appointed Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. Sir Patrick served as Chief Scientific Adviser from 2018 until 2023 and was a leading figure in the UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This announcement, so early in Sir Keir Starmer’s tenure, shows positive intent and how serious this new Government is about R&D. Through his extensive experience both inside and outside of government, Sir Patrick is someone who knows the machinery of Whitehall and the importance of cross-Government working. Sir Patrick has long been an advocate for long-term thinking and stability in UK science policy, something seen in his support and development of the Science and Technology Framework.

With his previous roles in business and his connections across the sector, he is superbly placed to foster productive relations in the years ahead and help R&D improve the lives and livelihoods of people in the UK.

Jacqui Smith, Higher Education minister

Former schools minister and home secretary Jacqui Smith has joined the ministerial team at the Department for Education. While her portfolio is yet to be officially confirmed, it has been reported online that it will include Higher Education, Further Education and skills. If so she will face the challenging task of working with universities to solve the financial issues they face, something that the new Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson has said is a top issue for her department.

CaSE looks forward to working with the new Government, on behalf of CaSE members, to ensure that research and development is at the heart of their plans for economic growth.