Ahead of the 2021 devolved elections, CaSE has written to the leaders of the political parties in Scotland and Wales, inviting them to embrace the opportunities offered by science and engineering.

The letters continue CaSE's project of work examining the impact of place-based regional investment on local economic growth, which includes the publishing of our Power of Place report. Scotland and Wales both have unique strengths in science and innovation that contribute to the UK’s diverse world-leading research base. As we approach elections to the Senedd and Scottish Parliament, CaSE is urging all party leaders to set out how they will build on these strengths and use investment in R&D to the benefit of their nations. Such investment will drive the health and economic recovery from COVID-19 as well as progress on challenges such as climate change.

We've sent copies of the Place report to all devolved party leaders, and we hope this useful resource helps inform and develop their policies on science and engineering. CaSE has also written to regional mayoral candidates standing in England on 5th May. Following the elections, we look forward to working with all political parties to ensure that every citizen reaps the rewards that science and engineering has to offer.

Letter to Scottish Party Leaders

Dear Party Leader, 

Today, science and engineering are more crucial than ever, sitting at the heart of tackling fundamental challenges to our society, from recovering from COVID-19 to combatting climate change. We are the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the leading independent advocacy group for UK science and engineering, and we are asking you to articulate and champion your party’s ambition for Scotland’s scientific future and set out the policies to achieve this in the run up to May’s elections. 

A strong set of policies to support research and innovation is critical for Scotland to reap the benefits of science and engineering; accelerating the development of new markets, generating high-quality jobs, and distributing their societal benefits, to make Scotland’s’ citizens better off, healthier and more secure.   

Scotland has a proud history of science and engineering. Scotland’s Higher Education sector punches above its weight, boasting two universities in the world’s top 100 and is second to London in receiving public R&D investment per capita in the UK.i However, Scotland does not have the same success in attracting private R&D investment, ranking well below the UK average.ii  There is great potential, but the economic and cultural gains of a strong science, research and innovation ecosystem require government action.  

Collectively our members employ over 336,000 people in the UK, and our industry and charity members invest over £32bn a year globally in R&D. We are delighted to include a strong Scottish presence in our membership, including the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow Science Centre and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. CaSE is funded entirely by our members and receives no funding from government.  

Scotland has a number of tools to build upon its strengths in research and innovation. Alongside world-class universities, Scotland is home to cutting-edge research institutes such as Fraunhofer UK, the James Hutton Institute and the Roslin Institute. The Muscatelli report showed how Scotland can encourage deeper collaborations between universities and industry. Organisations like the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise and Interface are well placed to deliver growth for Scotland’s R&D sector.  

We recently published our Power of Place report, exploring how to maximise local economic impacts of R&D investment across the UK. These outcomes were formed by engaging with representatives from across academia, industry and local government. The key findings from the report are; 

Excellence and Branding 

  • Brand new regions of excellence can’t just be grown from scratch. Scotland’s excellence in higher education should be championed, and new mechanisms developed to facilitate better industry-academic collaboration, helping to ensure that investment builds on existing focussed R&D excellence. 

  • Brand is important: Regions need to develop their pitch for national and overseas investment. 

Local Leadership 

  • The best examples of regional R&D growth have been driven by local leaders. 

  • One of Scotland’s strength is utilising a sense of social purpose to bring together actors in pursuit of societal aims. Government can bring together researchers, small and big business, and funders, united with a compelling vision, and helping to develop tailored collaboration mechanisms that address regional needs. 

Support small business 

  • SMEs need a helping hand from local and national government to secure academic collaborations. In Scotland, there was particular issues raised with matched funding schemes posing barriers to small business and limiting access – a tiered match funding system could alleviate these, encouraging innovation. 

  • A replacement for EU structural funds, that build research capacity and support small and local businesses, needs to be found. 

We hope this is a useful resource to shape your approach, and would be delighted to work with you to inform and develop Scotland’s science and engineering policies over the next parliamentary term.  

Yours sincerely,   

Professor Sarah Main 
Executive Director  
Campaign for Science and Engineering 

Letter to Welsh Party Leaders

Dear Party Leader,  

Today, science and engineering are more crucial than ever, sitting at the heart of tackling fundamental challenges to our society, from recovering from COVID-19 to combatting climate change. We are the Campaign for Science and Engineering, CaSE, the leading independent advocacy group for UK science and engineering, and we are asking you to articulate and champion your party’s ambition for Wales’ scientific future and set out the policies to achieve this in the run up to May’s elections. 

A strong set of policies to support research and innovation is critical for Wales to reap the benefits of science and engineering; accelerating the development of new markets, generating high-quality jobs, and distributing their societal benefits, to make Wales’ citizens better off, healthier and more secure.   

Wales is a fantastic place for science and engineering. It’s used innovative approaches to great results, with programmes like Sêr Cymru attracting world class researchers to Welsh universities, and the South Wales Semiconductor cluster demonstrating how to bring innovative SMEs and academics together. But more can be done. Wales lags behind other UK regions for expenditure per capita and as a % of GDPi, and the loss of structural funds from Europe could further challenge this. I was delighted to serve on the advisory panel for Professor Graeme Reid’s review of Government funded Research and Innovation in Wales. We know that to capture the economic and cultural gains of a strong science, research and innovation ecosystem, government action is needed. It needs increased and sustainable investment, and mechanisms to support industry and academia.  

Collectively our members employ over 336,000 people in the UK, and our industry and charity members invest over £32bn a year globally in R&D. We are delighted to include a strong Welsh presence in our membership, such as the Universities of Cardiff and Swansea, and the Learned Society of Wales. CaSE is funded entirely by our members and receives no funding from government.  

We recently published our ‘Power of Place’ report, exploring how to maximise local economic impacts of R&D investment across the UK. We further explored these topics in a roundtable held with Swansea University and the Learned Society of Wales on the ‘Future of R&D in Wales’. The key findings from the report and roundtable were; 

Excellence and Branding 

  • Brand new regions of excellence can’t just be grown from scratch. Wales already punches above its weight in academic research, producing more patents and publications from research than the UK average, and with a larger share of the top 1% of publicationsii. Investment should be focussed on existing areas of R&D excellence – such as matching the high quality of Wales’ research with a higher quantity.  

  • Brand is important: By developing a strong pitch for national and overseas funders, Wales can attract the talent and investment needed (both public and private), for a thriving and sustainable R&D ecosystem. 

Local Leadership 

  • The best examples of regional R&D growth have been driven by local leaders. 

  • Government can bring together researchers, small and big business, and funders, to develop better collaboration mechanisms that crowd together resource and expertise – helping to support smaller institutions to access critical larger funds. 

  • The Welsh Government can facilitate the better relationships with central government; for Wales this could mean coordinating local activities to deliver a single strategic message to UK-wide organisations like UKRI. 

Support small business 

  • SMEs need a helping hand from government to secure academic collaborations, facilitating the transfer of research excellence into commercial and economic gain. 

  • A replacement for EU structural funds, that build research capacity and support small and local businesses, needs to be found. 

We hope this is a useful resource to shape your approach, and would be delighted to work with you to inform and develop Wales’ science and engineering policies over the next parliamentary term.  

Yours sincerely,   
 
Professor Sarah Main 
Executive Director  
Campaign for Science and Engineering