Putting Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 32

Submission from SBAC

  SBAC is the UK's national trade association representing companies supplying civil air transport, aerospace defence, security and space markets. Together with its regional partners, SBAC represents over 2,600 companies, assisting them in developing new business globally, facilitating innovation and competitiveness and providing regulatory services in technical standards and accreditation.

1.  The SBAC welcomes the opportunity to respond to the inquiry, "Putting science and engineering at the heart of government policy".


  2.  Science and Engineering should be at the heart of policy-making. SBAC supports the development of a National Strategy for Science and Engineering to bring together government, industry, academia and other stakeholders to devise the best way to fund science and engineering for the benefit of the UK.

3.  SBAC does not see a need for a separate Department of Science at this time.

  4.  Current science and engineering policy is at best patchy and there needs to be more emphasis on the benefits that science and engineering bring to the UK.

  5.  Science and engineering research and training is at the core of the aerospace industry's development; as such our industry should be closely involved in the formulation of science and engineering policy. The Aerospace Technology and Skills Roadmaps should feed into these policies.

  6.  Early stage research in the aerospace industry is primarily funded through the Government's Technology Strategy Board. Successful consultation should reflect the needs of industry and incorporate the industry's Aerospace Technology and Skills Roadmaps.

  7.  SBAC's experience is that regional policies can fragment national progress in research and we do not recommend a regional science policy.

  8.  The Haldane principle should be updated to acknowledge the role that industry plays in furthering research.

  9.  The role that science and engineering play in the success of the UK economy is not understood by the public. The successful recruitment drive to ensure that there are more and better teachers of science and engineering, to capture and harness early enthusiasm in the classroom should be continued.

  10.  SBAC believes that engineers should be encouraged to obtain Chartered Engineer accreditation and that this professional status needs to be more widely understood.

  11.  A National Science and Engineering Strategy would bring together all stakeholders to determine science and engineering policy.

Should the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Science and Innovation and the Council for Science and Technology put science and engineering at the heart of policy-making?

  12.  Science and Engineering go hand in hand and should be at the heart of policy-making. Science and Engineering will play an important part in solving the problems of the 21st century such as global warming, reducing carbon emissions and encouraging growth through innovation.

13.  The aerospace industry is a highly attractive and growing industrial sector. The UK has the largest aerospace industry outside the US and is potentially well placed to exploit further growth in the global marketplace. There are 9,000 supply chain companies throughout the UK regions. In 2007 the industry had a turnover of £20 billion and secured more than £44 billion in new orders. The industry exports 62% of all that it produces, contributing to a positive balance of trade. Alongside pharmaceuticals, aerospace provides important balance to the UK economy and sustains high value careers in design, research and engineering.

  14.  The aerospace industry directly employs 113,318 people, 18,449 of whom are focused on Research and Development activities. The sector employs 2,700 apprentices and 39% of all employees hold a university degree or equivalent.

  15.  Investment in research and development helps to sustain high-value jobs and increases the competitiveness of UK companies. Aerospace companies that find more beneficial research and development environments overseas are likely to move their R&D to other countries, with the consequent jobs being created outside the UK. Placing science and engineering at the centre of policy-making is likely to encourage aerospace companies to invest in the UK.

  16.  The UK aerospace industry is good at identifying future business opportunities and where research and development investment should be made to ensure that UK companies are best placed to win work on future programmes. The New Short Range aircraft is a significant opportunity for the industry and will be the replacement 100 seat aircraft that comes on stream in the next ten years. It is the focus for the development of new technology and environmental improvement that will deliver reductions in aircraft noise and gaseous emissions. It is a future market worth $600 billion over the next 20 years and is a major opportunity alongside Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, estimated to be worth £1 billion and rotorcraft. In conjunction with the government, the industry has identified the technology that needs to be developed to enable UK companies to compete for workshares on these programmes. These technology roadmaps define the specific technologies that need to be developed and the timeline for their development.

  17.  SBAC is currently building on this mapping work through developing a skills map that aligns with these programmes. This skills roadmap will define the needs of the industry according to future programmes and will be an important tool for both government and industry to invest in the right training programmes at the right time.

Should there be a Department for Science?

  18.  The reorganisation of government departments to create the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills signalled a change in direction to give a greater emphasis to innovation and industry. Separating skills from education has recognised that skills continue to play an important role in the UK economy and that knowledge should extend beyond the formal education system.

19.  Although SBAC welcomes the suggestion that science should be important enough to have its own department, we are concerned that creating a Department for Science is likely to contribute to additional administrative expenditure and money targeted at assessing science and engineering rather than supporting or promoting it. SBAC does not feel that this would be an effective use of government investment. Equally, if a Department for Science were established, it would need to include Engineering to ensure joined-up thinking about new technologies and to ensure that scientific advances are developed into innovations that benefit the UK economy.

  20.  SBAC would however welcome the development of a National Agenda and Strategy for Science and Engineering. This would encourage all government departments associated with science and engineering to work together to create outputs that will deliver the innovation and technology programmes that are required by the industries of the UK.

Comments on the way that Government formulates science and engineering policy (strengths and weaknesses of the current system)

  21.  SBAC believes that current science and engineering policy is patchy and would benefit from greater emphasis on the advantages that engineering brings to the UK economy. Government should work with industry to provide a real opportunity to develop a coherent and holistic policy.

22.  Currently the many initiatives, themes and programmes located around science and engineering are often forced to fit the funding regime. This results in projects being developed in ways to ensure that they are funded rather than developing research programmes to fit the needs of industry. A National Strategy for Science and Engineering would help to determine priority areas for research and would then ensure that they are funded.

Should the views of the science and engineering community be central to the formulation of government policy?

  23.  SBAC believes that the aerospace industry's contribution to the UK economy, its position as the second largest aerospace industry in the world and as an employer and exploiter of the UK science and engineering capability means that the industry is well placed to make a positive contribution to the Government's policy on science and engineering.

24.  The Aerospace Technology Roadmaps which define the technology that needs to be collaboratively funded and developed to ensure that the industry it is best placed to compete for work on future programmes are mature. They provide an important basis for informing decisions on civil aerospace collaborative research, development and demonstration programmes. to maintain the UK knowledge base and further lead to UK high value manufacturing.

  25.  Synergies between the National Aerospace Technology Strategy and the Defence Technology Plan are being sought to ensure effective and efficient utilisation of both government and industry investments.

  26.  A Skills Roadmap is also being developed by SBAC to determine the future skills needs of the aerospace industry. SBAC believes that the Roadmaps are a significant contribution that the aerospace industry is able to contribute to the formulation of government policy.

How should the success of any consultation be assessed?

  27.  SBAC believes that the success of consultation can be assessed in two ways. Successful consultation would result in government policies that reflect the experience of the aerospace industry and respond to the industry's needs. This would also mean that the aerospace industry would have an understanding of the reasoning behind policies that did not reflect their needs.

28.  The Aerospace Technology Roadmaps and the Aerospace Skills Roadmap are designed to create an effective demand signal from the aerospace industry. Successful consultation would refer to these Roadmaps and would incorporate the demand signal into government policy.

Is there a case for a regional science policy versus national science policy?

  29.  SBAC has received no pressure from member companies or affiliated member trade associations making the case for regional science policies. We believe that it is the role of the Regional Development Agencies to emphasise their regional needs within the context of national strategies.

30.  There has been some concern from SBAC members that the shift in funding from national initiatives such as the Civil Aeronautics Research and Technology Demonstration (CARAD) Programme to regional funding programmes has had an adverse effect, resulting in increased administration costs and "internal" competition between regions, both being detrimental to execution. SBAC's members are concerned that regional funding regimes have necessitated multiple applications in order to amass the funding for a single programme. The process of large programme application is currently taking on average 12 months of reiterative discussion which in turn could jeopardise entire research programmes. SBAC is a globally competitive industry and the complexity of applying for support for research does affect UK competitiveness.

  31.  SBAC believes that there are advantages to be gained from a National Agenda and Strategy for science and engineering which builds upon the initiatives that have already been developed in industry sectors such as aerospace. This should be seen as a framework at a regional level in a similar fashion to the regional implementation of the National Curriculum.

Does the Haldane principle need updating?

  32.  SBAC believes that the Haldane principle does not acknowledge industry's contribution in leading and funding research initiatives. We acknowledge that pure research is necessary to advance scientific and engineering knowledge, and we also acknowledge the role that this plays in the advancement of engineering technologies. We believe that research, development and demonstration is best shaped by collaboration of industry, government and academia and that government and research council investments should be more closely aligned to collaborative national strategies such as NATS.

33.  We believe that a National Science and Engineering Strategy would stimulate cohesion between the Research Councils, Government and Industry. This would allow scientific and engineering frontiers to be advanced without political interference and would also be a mechanism to determine the funding and direction of research for the benefit of the UK economy.

Engaging the public and increasing public confidence in science and engineering policy

  34.  SBAC believes that the public are "put off" by science and engineering and have little understanding about the contribution that engineering continues to make to the wealth and success of the UK.

35.  There is a public perception that science is hard and engineering is dirty. Clean rooms, light and airy facilities with computer aided machines are now the norm and many scientists and engineers spend much of their working time in offices or at a computer.

  36.  Science and engineering is often down-graded as "the techie bit". There are many "pseudo-science" stories in the media, often focused on areas such as food and medical scares, or purporting to have come up with a formula for subjects such as the "perfect shower" or the "perfect joke". These are reported without criticism and can lead to misunderstandings. Genuine advances in science and/or engineering are either reported sensationally or not reported at all.

  37.  A greater understanding of the importance of science and engineering to the regeneration and sustainability of our economy would also encourage more young people to enter science and engineering careers. More funding should be directed towards the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and incentives should be provided to industry to encourage collaboration with and support for local schools and colleges.

  38.  SBAC's work with children at primary level shows that the wonder they express at space technology and aeroplanes in flight can be lost in the classroom at secondary level as the education process is often unrelated to the application of science and engineering. SBAC welcomes the significant steps that have been taken to address shortages of well-educated science and maths teachers in schools through the "those who can, teach" campaign, and proposes that similar campaigns should be developed for prospective further education programmes. We encourage the government to continue its recruitment drive to ensure that children are receiving the most stimulating science and maths teaching possible.

  39.  SBAC also welcomes the reintroduction of separate science teaching into secondary education and sees this as a positive step to enable the up-take of science subjects.

  40.  SBAC has also discovered that good, enthusiastic teaching showing how scientific and engineering principles can be applied to pupils' real life experience, results in more students studying science and engineering at higher levels. Many of our members are working with schools to deliver the Engineering Diploma.

  41.  Engineering is perceived not to be well-paid in comparison with highly lucrative occupations such as finance and there is little understanding of what engineers do on a daily basis. This leads to a lack of interest in pursuing a scientific or engineering career.

  42.  There is an ongoing debate about the professional status of engineers and in particular the use of the word "engineer" in job titles for job roles such as mechanics and heating systems installers. SBAC believes that ensuring that scientists and engineers at all levels are registered within an integrated and coordinated national framework based on robust entry standards and relevant continuous professional development, would improve the professional status of scientists and engineers. Chartered Engineering status (CEng) should be more widely publicised as a professional accreditation in the same way as professions such as law and accountancy.

The role of GO-Science, DIUS and other Government departments, charities, learned societies, Regional Development Agencies, industry and other stakeholders in determining UK science and engineering policy

  43.  SBAC believes that a National Science and Engineering Strategy should bring all these stakeholders together to determine science and engineering policy. SBAC is already working closely with government, industry, research and technology organisations and academia to create and develop the Technology Roadmaps and the Skills Roadmap. We believe that the production of the Roadmaps will set out the needs of industry and that these should contribute to determining UK science and engineering policy.

44.  SBAC believes that these stakeholders reflect the wealth of scientific and engineering talent present throughout the UK. Bringing these stakeholders together will advance science and engineering policies to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of innovation.

January 2009

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