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Scientists dub UK science plan a ‘sticking plaster’

Posted on the 7th March 2023

Science Funding

Plans by the UK government to make the country a science and technology superpower by 2030 will not be achieved unless more funding is made available, say leading scientists.

While the Science and Technology framework aims to cement the UK’s place as a global science leader, the Royal Society said more funding would be required to achieve this goal, as well as securing full association with EU programmes.

The plan is the first major output of the recently created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

It outlines 10 vital actions necessary to foster the right conditions for industry, innovation, and scientific research to deliver highly paid jobs, boost economic growth in cutting-edge industries, and improve people’s lives.

These include identifying, pursuing and achieving strategic advantages in leading industries; boosting private and public investment in research and development; and financing innovative science and technology startups and companies.

The plan also includes an additional £370m in funding, with £250m of this ringfenced to build on the UK’s leadership in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology.

Prof Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said the announcement was a clear signal that research and innovation sat at the heart of the government’s agenda for productivity and growth, and that it was reassuring to see a plan focused on cementing the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower.

However, he added that the funding, while a welcome intervention, “is yet another sticking plaster” and stressed that the ultimate goal was still the delivery of full association with EU programmes.

He said: “Today’s announcement is welcome – and one of the first steps to turning words into action must be securing full association to the EU funding programmes.

“That represents the base of a globally focused UK science sector.”

Last week, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, signaled that there may be a possibility of the UK securing access to the EU’s flagship Horizon Europe programme. However, this is not guaranteed, and it could take several years for funding and participation to return to pre-Brexit levels.

Meanwhile, an independent review of the UK’s research, development and innovation landscape has concluded that funding provided by the UK government is limited and below that of other competitive nations.

Related: New Brexit deal ushers in changes to medicines regulations

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