Read the Conservative Party Leader's response to CaSE's letter, setting out the party's commitments that are relevant to the science and engineering sector ahead of the 2015 Election

In the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election, CaSE has written to the leader of every political party with at least one MP in Westminster, sending them our election briefings and asking them to set out their manifesto commitments that are relevant to the science and engineering sector.

Below is the response from the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron.

Dear CaSE,

Thank you for your recent correspondence, regarding science and engineering and the Conservative Party’s 2015 Manifesto. It is good of you to have taken the time and trouble to get in touch.

As you are aware, my Policy Unit is carefully considering all policy areas in advance of our 2015 manifesto. We will be setting out our policy plans for the next Parliament in due course, however I can assure you that making sure we have a world-class science and engineering industry is part of the Conservative’s long-term economic plan to deliver sustainable growth, create more jobs and help secure a better future for hardworking people and their families. We are proud that the UK is a world-leader in science and engineering and by investing in infrastructure and research, encouraging innovation and nurturing engineering talent, the Conservative Party will ensure the UK’s science and engineering industry remains one of the world’s best.

In government, we have set aside £4.6 billion each year to 2015/16 for home-grown science and engineering infrastructure and research. And we have committed £5.9 billion of capital to support scientific distinction up to 2021 — the longest investment pledge to science capital in decades. We want the UK to continue to play a leading role in developing new technologies, and we want the industry to continue to employ thousands of our talented school and university graduates. We have funded projects that boast outstanding expertise in science and engineering to help them achieve even more. For example, we have committed £800 million to major new research facilities including £235 million in the advanced materials Sir Henry Royce Institute, £113 million in big data at Hartree, Daresbury, £95 million to take the lead in the next European mission to Mars, £31 million in new energy security and innovation centres, £60 million to extend the capabilities of the National Nuclear Users Facility and £20 million for an innovation centre on ageing. A majority Conservative government would continue to invest in science and engineering, centred on the Science and Innovation Strategy published last year.

Innovation is the lifeblood of the sector and we have taken action to nurture great ideas. Thanks to £1.4 billion of public and private investment over the last five years, we have developed a network of seven Catapult centres, where scientists and engineers work side by side on research and development, turning ideas into new products and services to generate growth. Additionally, we are improving the competitiveness of research and development tax credit schemes and we have introduced the patent box to make it easier to protect and profit from new inventions. For companies that need an investment boost to get their ideas up and running, we have given over £150 million to the UK Innovation Investment Fund — a venture capital fund that supports technology-based businesses, including in the digital technologies, clean technology and advanced manufacturing sectors.

But, as you know, there is little use in all this investment if we do not have the right people with the right problem-solving skills to do the job. That is why we are reforming the education system — so that the UK produces the next generation of scientists and engineers. In 2014, we launched the `Your Life’ campaign to help boost participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in schools nationwide. Our goal was to raise the number of A-level maths and physics students by 50 per cent in three years and to double the number of undergraduate degrees taken by women in engineering and technology by 2030. The results so far are encouraging: more than 75,000 young people started apprenticeships in STEM subjects in 201-3/14 — that is an increase of over 40 per cent in just four years.

On top of this, by working closely with industry, we have provided an extra £400 million for university science departments to develop world-class facilities so the UK can meet the science industry’s demand for highly skilled young people. We have linked that funding directly to commitments on equality of opportunity, to ensure that the talent is drawn from the broadest possible pool and that background is not an obstacle to success in this highly competitive environment. We are also giving financial support to part-time engineering students who have previously studied for a degree, and we are introducing loans of up to £10,000 for young people who want to undertake postgraduate study.

You can be assured that a Conservative government will be committed to investing in science and engineering because we want to see our strong and worldwide reputation in this hugely important area continue to go from strength to strength.

Thank you, once again, for your correspondence. I hope you find this response helpful and I look forward to continuing to work with CaSE as we strive to achieve our shared goals for this key sector.

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