Read the Liberal Democrat 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 partywith 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 Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg

Dear CaSE,

Thank you for your letter enquiring about the Liberal Democrats’ ambitions for the UK’s scientific future.

The Liberal Democrats recognise that science and engineering skills, and innovation drive improvements in quality of life and wellbeing, as well as economic success. The UK’s science base is extraordinary – our cutting edge research base is world leading, our universities are world-class, we attract the world’s brightest minds and we are second in the world when ranked by Nobel prizes.

That said, the UK has historically invested less in research and development than our competitor nations, so we can and will go further to promote science and engineering. I’ve set out below the Liberal Democrats’ priorities that will build on our world-leading capability in science and engineering in the next Parliament to support further innovation and maximise our competitive edge in the global economy.

Boosting Investment in Research and Development

Investment in research and development is critical to the current and future economic success of the UK. There are big opportunities (such as the growing potential of genomics) but also big challenges (such as antimicrobial resistance). We must rise to these challenges by supporting innovation and the transformation of our cutting edge science into new products and services. This will create new jobs, innovative businesses and allow the UK to take the lead in new markets. To support science and innovation we:

  • Aim to double innovation and research spending across the economy, supported by greater public funding on a longer timescale, more ‘Catapult’ innovation and technology centres, and more support for green innovation from the Green Investment Bank.
  • Will continue to ringfence the science budget and ensure that, by 2020, both capital and revenue spending have increased at least in line with inflation.

Providing High Quality Science and Engineering Education

Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of encouraging and inspiring more children to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and ensuring that they are well taught in schools and universities. Curiosity in the way the world works is to be encouraged for its own sake, to build deeper understanding, as well as for economic growth. That is why we will:

  • Encourage schools at primary level to have at least one science specialist among the staff, and at secondary level work to maximise the number of teachers who have degree qualifications in the subjects they teach.
  • Continue to support the Teach First programme to attract high calibre graduates into teaching, in particular in STEM subjects.
  • Promote the take up of STEM subjects in schools, retain coding on the National Curriculum and encourage entrepreneurship at all levels.

Ensuring Britain has a Highly Skilled and Diverse Workforce

Liberal Democrats believe we should welcome talented people from abroad so that Britain has the highly skilled and diverse workforce it needs to deliver a balanced economy with strengths in every part of the UK. We need to ensure that immigration rules do not place arbitrary barriers in the way of skilled individuals coming to or remaining in the UK. In the next Parliament we will:

  • Ensure that the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students, not least those who wish to study STEM subjects.
  • Reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates who can find graduate-level employment within six months of completing their degree.

Please be assured the Liberal Democrats will build on the UK’s capability in science and engineering so that it continues to be one of the most high-performing and successful science bases in the world.

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