CaSE responds to the announcement of the new Universities and Science Minister

Jo Johnson MP has been appointed Universities and Science Minister at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. He was previously a minister in the Cabinet Office.

Commenting on the appointment, CaSE Acting Director, Naomi Weir said:

“There is enormous opportunity for science and engineering to drive economic prosperity and public wellbeing. In his new role, Jo Johnson is in a strong position to ensure science and engineering is a central feature of the Government’s long-term economic plan. I look forward to working with him to ensure the UK has the people, the funding and the policies for science and engineering to thrive.”

It has now been confirmed that the Universities and Science Minister will not be attending cabinet meetings, in contrast to his Conservative predecessors, Dr Greg Clark and David Willetts.

Notes on Mr Johnson

Mr Johnson has been an MP for Orpington since 2010 and has most recently headed up the Number 10 Policy Unit, with responsibility for developing Conservative policy in the run-up to the 2015 general election. He is a long-standing friend of George Osborne and was also Personal Private Secretary to Mark Prisk when he was Business and Enterprise Minister. Despite such close ties to central Conservative Party policy making, Mr Johnson will be relatively unknown to the science and engineering community.

Mr Johnson is considered to be supportive of the European Union and has a keen interest in relations between Britain and India, including publishing a book in 2011 called “Reconnecting Britain and India: Ideas for an Enhanced Partnership” (Academic Foundation 2011, with Dr Rajiv Kumar). Science, engineering and higher education have all been in focus during recent high-profile trade delegations to India by the Prime Minister and other government officials.

Mr Johnson may see his new role as a way to strengthen links between the two countries through these policy areas. He has also expressed support for students coming to study in the UK in an article for the Financial Times, saying “Britain’s universities are a globally competitive export sector and well-placed to make a greater contribution to growth. With economic growth at a premium, the UK should be wary of artificially hobbling it.”

Before becoming an MP, Mr Johnson was the Financial Times’ South Asia bureau chief, having worked for the newspaper since 1997. Whilst at the FT, he had postings in India and France. He also worked as a corporate financier at the investment banking division of Deutsche Bank before becoming a journalist.

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