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CaSE responds to the integrated review of defence and foreign policy

16 Mar 2021

Despite placing science and technology at the heart of today’s review, the Government shows a disconnect between rhetoric and action.

Commenting on the review, CaSE Executive Director Professor Sarah Main said:

“The Government have placed science and technology at the heart of today’s Integrated Review, recognising the vital role that research and innovation can play in bringing about the Prime Minister’s vision for 2030 and beyond. And yet there is disconnect between the rhetoric and the Government’s actions.”

Commenting on Horizon Europe:

“Today’s review makes clear the Government’s support for renewed UK-EU collaboration and the importance of Horizon Europe as a framework for that collaboration. Yet funds to pay the cost for the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe have not been forthcoming and there is concern that it will be taken from the existing science budget. This would necessitate profound cuts across UK research and innovation activity and would be a significant backward step for the Prime Minister’s aspirations for this country to remain a scientific superpower.”  

Commenting on cuts to ODA budgets:

“The Government’s attitude to building scientific partnerships through overseas development aid seems to be a case of saying one thing and doing another. The language in today’s review would suggest the government understands the importance of overseas aid in supporting R&D collaborations with developing countries, and yet their own national funding agency, UKRI, is being forced to make large-scale cuts to projects funded through international aid programmes. This will mean ending research projects with overseas partners that are already underway, damaging the UK’s reputation in the eyes of its partners and making it harder to meet the challenges outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

At the end of last year the Foreign Secretary stressed that ODAs had an important role to play in boosting international scientific partnerships, “because these are the building blocks of development and they require a long-term strategic commitment”. Unfortunately the government are failing to back up these words, and UKRI now finds itself facing a shortfall of £120 million in its ODA allocation for the coming year. 

On defence-related R&D investment 

The Integrated Review restates the Government’s commitment to invest £6.6 billion over the next four years in defence-related R&D, originally announced in last Autumn’s Spending Review as part of a £24 billion defence package over the same period. CaSE’s analysis shows that although this settlement means that the overall Defence budget will grow at an average of 1.8 per cent per year in real terms from 2019- 20 to 2024-25, R&D budgets will remain broadly flat compared to the previous period.