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

Memorandum 41

Submission from BAE Systems


  There is no need for a separate Department for Science. BAE Systems recognises the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, supported by a pan-government network of Chief Scientific Advisers, as significant champions for science within Government.

There is merit in pure research but we firmly believe most research should be requirements driven, focused on enhancing the UK's economic performance and overcoming the challenges facing society at large.

Regional science policy would introduce duplication and inefficiency. In addition, regional objectives could conflict with national concerns, diverting focus and funding.

  If Science and Engineering is to be at the heart of Government Policy we must ensure that world class scientists, engineers and technicians are developed through the UK education system. To achieve this goal we must increase our efforts to encourage the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects from the earliest stages in the curriculum and to promote the widespread contribution science and engineering makes to the UK.

  Greater recognition and support for the achievements of the science and engineering communities would increase public affinity and awareness and create a platform for better engagement and debate around major science and engineering issues affecting the UK.


  BAE Systems employs 35,000 people in the UK (of which over 18,000 of these are in scientific, technical and engineering roles). It directly or indirectly helps to sustain over 100,000 UK jobs.[168] The company contributes in excess of £4 billion per annum to UK exports and flows down work valued in excess of £2 billion per annum to its UK supply chain.[169] Based on the productivity measure of value add per employee, the BAE Systems workforce contributes some 72% more than the UK average.[170] Every year BAE Systems undertakes research and development valued in excess of £1 billion.

The UK Defence Industry is the world's second largest and is founded upon world-class scientific, technical and engineering capabilities. The industry sustains investment in research and technology, people and processes that benefit not only its own purposes but also, through academic partnerships and its supply chain, other industrial sectors.

  BAE Systems believes the UK should recognise science and engineering as national assets that must be sustained and continually enhanced to maintain the country's position as a leading global economy.

  In this submission, we will address each of the Committee's questions separately, drawing upon the experiences and perspectives of our own company to demonstrate a case for placing "Science and Engineering at the heart of Government Policy" and the creation of a national strategy spanning government, industry and academia.

1.  Whether 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 and whether there should be a Department for Science

  We believe the UK's science and engineering sectors make a pivotal contribution to the prosperity and security of our nation. The science, technology and engineering sectors underpin and sustain success in other areas such as finance, medicine and commerce. Emergent economies in the Middle East and Asia invest heavily in these sectors, recognising the significant and sustainable economic contribution they make.

Systems Engineering is playing a growing role in the development and operation of numerous complex systems on which modern society depends. The use of Systems Engineering principles is almost without limit (Within BAE Systems they are used in a range of programmes from "traditional" manufacturing projects through to people-focused training and service-based projects). Systems Engineering is a critical enabler to Government and industry and plays a key role in maintaining the UK's global industry competitive advantage.

  In the UK we must continually enhance our science and engineering sectors to maintain and enhance our place as a global leader. Government science and engineering policy should take a holistic approach—starting with the initial introduction and education and extending to the stimulation of investment and the realisation of economically valuable business opportunities around the world.

  Fundamental and applied research must be driven by the UK's needs—as a guiding principle we believe in a split of 80:20 favouring requirements driven research over pure research. In the US, mission-led funding agencies provide ~70% of federal dollars in to US universities, influencing national strategies and research directions.

  Science and engineering should be intrinsic to government thinking and closely linked to the objectives of individual government departments. A separate Department for Science could be seen to discriminate between science and the objectives of the Government. It would heighten the risk of valuable funds being diverted to produce more research publications without delivering value—currently around 90% of research council funding leads to publications, while only a very small percentage is pulled through to deliver value to industry.

How Government formulates science and engineering policy (strengths and weaknesses of the current system)

  There needs to be real engagement of industry—this would ensure a better return on research investment and would encourage joint funding in areas of benefit to the UK as a whole.

The Chief Scientific Adviser approach provides an effective interface for industry into individual government departments. BAE Systems has established relationships with scientific advisers in departments relevant to our business interests. This enables research and development investment and strategy to complement and support the aims of government.

  Aligning investment and strategy allows industry to determine far stronger exploitation paths for the resulting technologies and capabilities.

  Every year BAE Systems undertakes research and development valued in excess of £1 billion. Investment of this scale is sustained by the prospect and realisation of the potential revenue it generates. Aligning research outcomes with realistic industrial applications is the surest way of delivering the level of UK technological research investment needed for our science and engineering sectors to remain globally competitive.

  One area where Government Policy would have a positive impact is to extend this principle of research alignment more broadly through a far reaching review of the manner in which research is funded through public and private investment.

  Fostering innovation across all areas of the supply network is critical to the long term success of BAE Systems, and the UK economy as a whole. To ensure the best use of both government and related private sector investment it is important to create an "innovation pipeline", linking investments at all stages: from "blue sky" research to applied research; from applied research to incubation of opportunities; and from the incubation through to growth and exploitation.

  It is important we create a balance between sustaining skills and capabilities within the UK to develop a global centre of excellence and understanding when we should buy "off-the-shelf" from other countries.

Whether the views of the science and engineering community are, or should be, central to the formulation of government policy, and how the success of any consultation is assessed

  As a leading employer of scientists and engineers BAE Systems supports any move to place the disciplines more centrally in the formulation of government policy.

However, we recognise that there are numerous considerations to be made in the creation of policy and any engagement should address the broadest range of stakeholders possible.

  Successful consultation would generate policy that creates better coherence between the objectives of the science and engineering sectors (in industry, government, academia and beyond) and the broader objectives of UK Government policy and the nation's economic growth aspirations.

The case for a regional science policy (versus national science policy) and whether the Haldane principle needs updating

  BAE Systems has sites located throughout the United Kingdom. We work closely with Regional Development Agencies, regional trade organisations and universities up and down the country. Nevertheless, we see little merit in individual regional science policies.

Instead we believe in policy that is devised nationally, which can be easily enacted on a regional basis. Our experiences on the ASTRAEA programme, part of the National Aerospace Technology Strategy looking at the technological and regulatory issues in opening the UK airspace to unmanned vehicles, suggests that we need to create a framework in which this can be done easily. This £32 million programme is considered very successful by its major stakeholders, yet, in order to get underway, required 13 discrete funding bodies, 43 separate agreements and 176 signatures to get underway.

  BAE Systems' experiences with the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre, established in 2002 and based at Loughborough University, have shown how the Regional Development Agencies, in this case East Midlands Development Agency, working in partnership with industry and academia can create high quality research environments that deliver benefits to all those involved.

  The Haldane principle has been interpreted to mean that research decisions should be made by the researchers themselves, on scientific principles, removed from political considerations. From our perspective this could be seen to perpetuate the situation whereby the application of research funding fails to match the challenges facing the economy, industry and society at large.

  From our perspective this could be seen to perpetuate the situation whereby the application of research funding fails to match the challenges facing the economy, industry and society at large. Our position is that there is merit in research based on academic curiosity the emphasis must be on research with obvious potential for application and exploitation. It is on this basis that we have developed our strategic partnerships with four leading UK Universities in Aeronautical Engineering (Cranfield), Support Engineering (Cambridge), Systems Engineering (Loughborough) and Distributed Data and Information Systems (Southampton).

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

  Collectively we must do more to raise public awareness of science and engineering. As a nation we are happy to praise the achievements of scientists and engineers in history and Newton and Brunel are often cited as examples of Britain's technological and scientific "greatness". Sadly, we appear less adept at recognising those who currently continue to advance science and engineering in this country.

Excellence in science and engineering is worthy of reward and recognition and collectively we must consider how we can create role models by highlighting the contribution science and engineering make to society and instilling an understanding of their value in the minds of the general public.

  Increasing numbers of young people are enrolling in undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes in STEM. Nevertheless there remains an imperative to attract the quantity and quality of people needed to sustain this skill base. BAE Systems uses an innovative theatre-based schools road show to give 9-13 year olds a new perspective on science, technology, engineering and manufacturing. 43,000 students have seen how these subjects affect their everyday lives. Through this programme we seek to influence the decisions that they make when choosing GCSE subjects; decisions that can determine whether they can pursue a future career in science, engineering or technology.

  It is critical to the engagement of young people, their perceptions of the subjects and their desire to pursue those subjects through to A-Level, diploma, further education and higher education that teachers are well qualified, enthusiastic and of a high quality. BAE Systems was the first corporate sponsor of the National Science Learning Centre at the University of York and has committed £1 million to support the high quality professional development for everyone involved in the teaching of science in UK primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges.

  Initiatives encouraging the transfer of skills from industry to education, such as the "Transition to Teaching" programme, will also support improvement in the quality of science teaching in schools. This will help ensure that science teachers are provided with best practice training in the delivery of science teaching in the classroom. While we in business are fortunate to receive regular development, a recent survey by the Wellcome Trust showed that only half of science teachers had any subject specific training in the last five years.

  Furthermore, we need to engage with sections of society in which the study of engineering and science is not prevalent. In 2008 BAE Systems ran a pilot activity in Preston and Blackburn to reach out to ethnic minority students, who are not currently applying for apprenticeships with the company. We will be reviewing the project with the schools early next year and planning to build on this with more activity in 2009.

  Industry can also provide direct exposure to the reality of the science and engineering workplace. Each year we host over 700 14-16 year olds on work experience placements—providing an incomparable insight into the opportunities a science and engineering career can offer.

  There is evidence of increased awareness, understanding and application of systems engineering in the UK. In parallel we are experience a shortage in skilled systems engineers to meet the demands of the defence sector. Government and industry work should ensure our education system—from schools through to universities—provides sufficient, suitably trained systems engineers, supported by continued professional development throughout their careers. In addition, research funding should be invested in a manner that enhances the nation's systems engineering competencies and, as a result, its future economic competitive advantage.

  BAE Systems is not alone in making these investments and other companies, various governmental and non-governmental organisations run programmes with similar goals. A national co-ordinated framework could widen participation from small and medium-sized businesses and align the efforts of industry and government, yielding better long term outcomes. We would encourage the Parliamentary Committee to consider this opportunity as part of its Inquiry.

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

  Influencing UK science and engineering policy is the responsibility of all organisations with an interest in the growth of the UK economy. While the final decision and direction of policy clearly lies with the Government it is, in our view, incumbent upon the Executive to ensure the necessary consultation takes place. Doing so would ensure policy is well supported, realistic and in the best interests of the UK.

Science and engineering are not discrete activities that take place independent of wider considerations—this is one of the reasons BAE Systems does not support the creation of a separate Department for Science.

  Government Policy should support the objectives of this broad community of stakeholders and, in our opinion, provide incentives in areas deemed beneficial to the UK's economy growth.

How government science and engineering policy should be scrutinised

  Parliamentary scrutiny of Government Policy, such as Select Committees, remains the responsibility of our elected representatives in Parliament. However, a greater knowledge and understanding of the principles of science and engineering and the challenges facing the community would form a basis for better informed scrutiny.

We also believe the consultation process employed in the formulation of policy should continue through to the scrutiny stages. This would ensure the link between the initial objective and the programme devised to deliver it is maintained.

January 2009

168   Study of BAE Systems Economic Impact to the UK Economy-conducted by Oxford Economics (Published-April 2008). Back

169   Study of BAE Systems Economic Impact to the UK Economy-conducted by Oxford Economics (Published-April 2008). Back

170   Study of BAE Systems Economic Impact to the UK Economy-conducted by Oxford Economics (Published-April 2008). Back

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