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UK government’s ‘science superpower’ ambitions to fail without clear plan, Lords committee warns

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee pointed to a lack of sustained focus, implementation and delivery in realising its 2030 ambitions

London

The UK government’s ambitions to become a ‘science and technology superpower’ by 2030 will fail unless a clear implementation plan is established, according to a new report by the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee.

The Lords Committee stated in its report, Science and Technology superpower: more than a slogan?, that it was concerned the government is ‘not on course to meet its ambitions’ and that evidence of sustained focus, implementation and delivery is ‘lacking’.

In the report, the Committee pointed to the ‘lack of an overarching plan for the strategic development of UK science and technology’ and that, although the government recognised that the UK cannot be ‘world-leading’ in everything, it has not yet identified the area of science and technology it wants the country to specialise in.

The government expressed its ambition to become a ‘science and technology superpower’ in the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. To support this, in June 2021, the government established the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) as a committee, chaired by the prime minister, as well as a supporting Office of Science and Technology Strategy (OSTS).

A substantial increase in public R&D funding was also announced to help realise the government’s ambition, with public investment in R&D rising to £20bn by 2024-2025 from $9bn in 2017-2018, according to the 2021 Spending Review.

The report highlighted that the NSTC has met only three times since it was established in July 2021, and the OSTS has yet to publish any ‘substantive documents or to reveal what it intends to do’.

The Committee’s key recommendations included that the government should better define its science and technology strategy, and that it should repair international relationships following the ongoing lack of association with Horizon Europe and cuts to research funded by Official Development Assistance – a move which the peers said had already damaged the UK’s international reputation.

Commenting on the report, Committee chair Julia Brown said: "R&D is a long-term endeavour which requires sustained focus and an implementation plan. But we found a plethora of strategies in different areas with little follow-through and less linking them together.

“UK science and technology remains strong and respected around the world, but they will not deliver their full potential for the UK with an inconsistent and unclear science policy from government. A new administration must retain the ambition for science and technology and develop a clear plan for delivery.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

8th August 2022

From: Healthcare

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