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CaSE responds to the 2017 Spring Budget

08 Mar 2017

CaSE has welcomed the announcements in today’s Budget, but urged the Government to implement them successfully

The Chancellor followed his Autumn Statement investments in R&D and infrastructure with a Spring Budget that focussed on education and technical skills.

CaSE Executive Director, Dr Sarah Main, said:

“This is good news for science – but it will be important to see that plans are done well. Government must work in consort to enable these plans to really fly.”

“Complementing investments in R&D with a focus on technical skills and PhD level training is a welcome move. Science and engineering organisations have been highlighting shortages in technically-skilled staff for many years. The Government’s reforms of technical education provide a ray of hope for our scientific companies, so it will be important to ensure the reforms are sufficiently resourced, seen to completion, and aligned with the industrial strategy in order to deliver on that hope.”

“The first wave of allocations of the new money for R&D are welcome, as is the focus on attracting high level talent through PhD training and fellowships. The Government must ensure that its immigration policy works in harmony with its aims to attract international talent. While moving to enshrine the principle of ‘dual support’ in law, Government should also be mindful that the allocations of money for specific initiatives should be balanced with the unhypothecated funding that is such a valued part of the UK’s research strength. We will be looking to the allocation of the remaining new R&D money for 2017-18 to fulfill that balance.”

“Finally, the Chancellor seems heartfelt in his intention to make education reforms work for everyone, but we must challenge Government to take a hard look at the substantial evidence on education models and explain their policy decisions. That is surely part of their duty to spend public money well. Science is a costly subject to teach at school in terms of equipment and space. Science tends to suffer in schools facing budget squeezes. So, I encourage the Government to fund science in existing schools well so that their education policies will complement and amplify their success in technical skills reform.”

Full breakdown of how STEMM fared in the 2017 Spring Budget:

Science, Research & Innovation

National Productivity Investment Fund (NIPF)

At Autumn Statement 2016, the government established the NPIF to provide over £23 billion of high-value investment between 2017-18 and 2021-22, with a focus on priority areas that are critical for improving productivity: economic infrastructure, housing and R&D.

Autumn Statement 2016 announced £4.7 billion from the NPIF for R&D and the 2017 Spring Budget takes the next steps in setting out that initial NPIF investment:

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base. An initial investment of £270 million in 2017-18 will kick-start the development of disruptive technologies;

  • The development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles
  • Developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and robotics systems that will operate in extreme and hazardous environments, including off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining
  • Accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatments through developing

Creating a new National 5G Innovation Network to trial and demonstrate 5G applications – the first phase will invest up to £16 million.

R&D tax review

The government will make administrative changes to the Research and Development Expenditure Credit to increase the certainty and simplicity around claims and will take action to improve awareness of R&D tax credits among SMEs. The government will continue to keep the competitiveness of the UK environment for R&D under review to ensure that the UK is profoundly pro-innovation.

Education and Skills

Attracting global talent

The government will invest over £100 million from the NPIF over the next 4 years to attract global talent. This includes:

  • £50 million of NPIF funding specifically ring-fenced for fellowship programmes to attract global talent
  • Over £50 million from existing international funds will support fellowships that attract researchers to the UK from emerging research powerhouses like India, China, Brazil and Mexico

Doctoral study and career researchers

The NPIF will invest £250 million over the next four years to build the pipeline of high-skilled research talent:

  • £90 million will provide an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. Around 85% will be in STEM disciplines, and 40% will directly help strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships
  • £160 million will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy

The government also confirms the terms of doctoral loans for 2018-19, previously announced at Budget 2016. These new loans will provide up to £25,000 for doctoral study.

Technical Education

Based on the recommendations of Lord Sainsbury’s Independent Review on Technical Education, the government will transform technical education for 16-19 year olds by creating T-levels, creating sector-specific routes to employment, supported by an increase in the number of hours of learning of over 50%, and including a high quality work placement for each student.

To ensure the routes are well-designed and colleges properly prepared, they will be introduced from 2019-20, increasing funding in line with this roll out, with over £500 million of additional funding invested per year once routes are fully implemented.

From 2019-20, the government will also provide maintenance loans, like those available to university students, to students on technical education courses at levels 4 to 6 in National Colleges and Institutes of Technology. This will also support adults to retrain at these institutions.

School Investment

The government will extend the free schools programme with investment of £320 million in this Parliament to help fund up to 140 schools, including specialist maths schools.