August 8, 2022
Britain’s ‘science superpower’ target will fail without strategy change, warns report

The government’s often stated ambition to make Britain a “science and technology superpower” will fail without a greater focus on results and spending more on research and development, according to two separate reports on Thursday.

The cross-party House of Lords Science and Technology Committee criticized the “lack of a comprehensive plan for the strategic development of UK science and technology” and warned that “science superpower” would remain a blank slogan unless the new prime minister “shifts”. ” does not.[ed] Focusing on implementation and delivery”.

Its report was echoed by one from centre-right think-tank Onward, which urged successor outgoing Premier Boris Johnson to “be more vocal in targeting R&D spending in areas of strategic strength” and several was endorsed by prominent Conservative MPs and the former. Minister

The Lord’s Committee said in its report: “There is an abundance of regional strategies in areas such as artificial intelligence and the life sciences that need to be logically consolidated. There is little understanding of how they fit into the overall plan.”

Pointing out that George Freeman’s resignation last month had left the post of science minister vacant, peers said hiring someone — and making science a cabinet-level portfolio — should be a priority for the new administration.

Baroness Julia Brown, chair of the committee, said she had found “a plethora of strategies with little follow-through in individual areas and little linking them together”, adding that “many bodies and organisations” have “vague or clearly overlapping responsibilities”.

Colleagues said the government’s sudden cut last year for research funded by official development aid had damaged Britain’s international reputation. The continued failure to participate in the EU’s Horizon Europe program “does further damage to the UK’s reputation and jeopardizes the quality of its science base”, he said.

In the meantime, Onward said Johnson’s successor should be home to “areas of strategic strength such as clean technology, AI and quantum computing”, warning that he would be “unwilling to reform science policy” in the UK. its national security and geopolitical leadership.” ,

The think-tank said: “To do so they will need to overhaul the role of research councils and universities in funding scientific research and target more funding to translate discoveries into products and services that will benefit the real economy and our will affect strategic goals.”

Freeman was one of the former ministers who supported Onward’s report. He added: “The UK is already a science superpower in discovering new ideas and building rich knowledge networks, but we keep them . . . strategic and economic priorities.”

A government spokesman said: “We are fully committed to cementing the UK’s position as a science superpower, and this is backed by record levels of investment.

“The UK still seeks to engage with EU programs and continues to work with our European partners. If EU delays mean the UK is unable to engage with Horizon, Euratom and Copernicus any time soon, we will continue to work with international partners. Committed to launching a comprehensive alternative program of science, research and innovation collaboration.”

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