6.The Government has ambitious science and technology targets. These goals, and the recognition of the importance of science and technology to the future economic health and global influence of the UK, are welcome. In this chapter we consider whether the Government’s strategy is clear, and whether it can deliver on its ambition.
7. The Government has headline ambitions for science and technology, such as the target to spend 2.4% of UK GDP on R&D by 2027. This target is ambitious and concerted effort will be required to achieve it. It is the focus of Chapter 3. Other targets are more loosely defined, such as the goal to become a “science and tech superpower” by 2030. George Freeman MP, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Science, Research and Innovation), said that becoming a “science superpower” means “that UK science is punching above its weight in terms of global impact.” It is “about talent and making sure that we build an open talent pathway for global talent to come here and for our scientists to go around the world and be international.” He spoke of making “strategic choices on behalf of UK science and technology”.
8.A recurring point made by witnesses was that the UK is strong at science, especially considering its population size and its level of investment. This is particularly true for its universities, some of which consistently rank amongst the best in the world. Nevertheless, despite numerous claims of the UK being “world-beating” at science and technology, we heard that “the UK cannot be a science superpower across all sectors of science [and technology], and will have to decide which have the most relevance to national priorities.”
9.The Innovation Strategy identified seven “technology families” to “transform [the UK’s] economy in the future”. The areas were broad—for example “energy … environmental [and climate] technologies”. The Government considered the families a “starting point for prioritisation” and acknowledged that “attempting to lead in every technology within each family will likely prevent us [the UK] attaining a world-leading edge in any one area.” It stated that the “National Science and Technology Council … will steer this crucial prioritisation process.” The Office for Science and Technology (OSTS), which supports the NSTC, has taken a broader view than the Innovation Strategy and it has defined four priority areas:
10.It is unclear whether the OSTS will narrow down these priority areas further. Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, thought the priorities in the Innovation Strategy gave “a clear signal to the market and private investors as to what technologies could be best pursued here” and cautioned against being overly prescriptive.
11.Andrew McCosh, Director-General, Office for Science and Technology Strategy, said the Government’s strategy would involve making “big strategic choices across a small number of strategically significant technology families.” But he did not envision setting “out a list of [individual] technologies.” The Government also told us it wanted to use procurement “to provide a route to market for innovative new products and services”. This suggests that Government will identify specific technologies that it wants the UK to develop. Lord Willetts, former Minister of State for Universities and Science, told us this was likely to be controversial: “I have this argument with colleagues in my own party, where they say, “Government can’t pick winners. We’re terrible at it.” However, he considered this to be “a pessimistic view of our [the UK’s] history”, citing Vodafone which was supported “partly … [by] a deliberate strategy of using our [the UK’s] technical lead to shape international mobile phone regulations in a way that worked for Vodafone.” He suggested a similar approach could be taken with cell and gene therapies “where the UK ha[s] a distinct advantage.”
12.The Council for Science and Technology, which advises the Prime Minister, wrote to the then Prime Minister about The UK as a science and technology superpower in July 2021. Its letter contained recommendations to help the UK become a science superpower by 2030. Concerning industry, it urged the Government to explain in “which strategic technology areas will we [the UK] seek to be ‘world-leading’ and where will we aim for the UK to be a ‘fast follower or adopter’?”
13.We heard concern from academic witnesses that a prescriptive government strategy might challenge the Haldane principle. While others considered it a “red herring” that there might be a conflict between the Government setting priorities and the Haldane principle, arguing that “government being clearer about … knowledge needs … helps more fruitful engagement between evidence producers and users”. The Government stated its commitment to the principle, with Andrew McCosh saying it “still applies very strongly. One of the great strengths of the UK is its broad-based discovery science research … we change it at our peril.”
14.Professor Graeme Reid, Chair of Science and Research Policy, University College London, thought that the appropriate level of direction from the Government would depend on the sector. “I would expect government departments to be more prescriptive about the use of their budgets for public policy development and public service delivery, whereas in the university community I think that the greatest value to the taxpayer comes from releasing the curiosity and expertise of the academics.”
15.We heard that clearer targets incentivise stakeholders when they signal demand for specific technologies. Helen Kennett, Director, UK Government Relations, Rolls Royce plc, said “it is always great to have a target to work to, but the thing that really incentivises us is if there is a very clear demand signal for the use of the technology that we are developing.” She pointed to the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution as being the “demand signal” for the net zero by 2050 target. The Council for Science and Technology argued likewise that “businesses need certainty of policy and incentives in order to support” priorities.
16.Clear targets from the Government are also necessary in monitoring progress towards the delivery of a strategy. For Cancer Research UK, this was central: “at a minimum, delivery of a science and technology strategy requires specific, measurable, and timely goals and a system for evaluating progress towards those goals.” Andrew McCosh described metrics as “a work in progress”. He hoped the OSTS would be in a position “by the end of the year” to set out the “main things that we will need to achieve over the next 10 years as a country to secure the advantage we want. We intend to put in place monitoring and evaluation of all the elements of that, and periodically or regularly return to the [National Science and Technology] Council and say, ‘this is how we’re doing.’”.
17.We welcome the indication that the Government is thinking more strategically about UK science and technology and recognises that the UK cannot be “world-beating” at everything. But the ambition to become a science and technology superpower by 2030 risks not being realised, as there are few details about how this will be defined or delivered.
18.The priority areas of science and technology that the Government has outlined are very broad and it is unclear whether these areas will be narrowed down. A strategy needs specific, measurable outcomes and a delivery plan. The Government should set out specifically what it wants to achieve in each of the broad areas of science and technology that it has identified. There should be a clear implementation plan including measurable targets and key outcomes in priority areas, and an explanation of how they will be delivered.
19.The NCC Group, a UK based global cyber and software resilience business, said there should be “consideration of the benefits and feasibility of establishing one of the existing science and technology bodies, perhaps the Council for Science and Technology, on a statutory footing as an independent non-executive body tasked with driving forward a long-term science and technology strategy and hold the Government (no matter the administration) to account on progress. For example, it could be set up much in the same way the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) or Climate Change Committee (CCC) have been, with progress reports submitted to Parliament on an annual basis.” Such an approach would rely on the OSTS setting measurable targets and timeframes for delivery. It would also require support for the targets from future administrations, but the experience of the CCC demonstrates the feasibility of such an approach.
20.We welcome the Office for Science and Technology Strategy’s commitment to establish and to publish metrics, by the end of 2022, to define the “science and tech superpower” ambition. This is necessary if “science and tech superpower” is to become more than slogan. The Government should update Parliament on its progress on developing metrics by the end of 2022. Once metrics are available, an independent body should be empowered to monitor progress towards the Government’s science and technology targets and to report annually to Parliament and government.
21.Sectoral strategies, varying from Life Sciences to nuclear fusion and AI, provide more detailed policy focus in specific areas. We heard from the NCC Group, that sector-specific strategies often “are mature and have been well executed. However, taken together these do not equate to the clear, well-communicated strategy that is ultimately needed.” The Academy of Medical Sciences pointed to “over a dozen strategies and initiatives linking to research and innovation … published from 2017–2021” in the life sciences sector.
22. Science and technology are recognised by the Government as central to other policy goals. The Academy for Medical Sciences welcomed the “attention” given to science in “Government documents from the R&D Roadmap to the Integrated Review and the Levelling Up White Paper.” But Gavin Costigan, Chief Executive, the Foundation for Science and Technology, said of the Integrated Review and the Levelling up White Paper that “if you read it as it is written, you would think you were being pulled in different directions.” The Association of Medical Research Charities called for an “overarching strategy backed up by a sustained implementation plan that links up these strategies to translate them into action.”
23.The proliferation of disparate strategies is confusing and it raises concerns about a lack of coherence and delivery. In defining an overarching implementation plan, the Government should consolidate existing sector-specific strategies that are working well and monitor progress against them to ensure that they provide a clear and consistent message.
24.This is not the first attempt from a government to take a more strategic approach to science and technology. The Science & innovation investment framework, 2004–2014 was published in 2004, when the percentage of GDP spent on R&D was 1.53% and contained a target for the UK to raise this to 2.5% of GDP by 2015. Professor Graeme Reid said that “there seems to be a desire for each strategy to appear to be entirely new, when, actually, many of them are set against a history and a context that may not have changed as much as the authors would like us to believe.”
25.R&D works on long timescales. Professor Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering, said that what her organisation hears “from business organisations and universities is that the most important factor is that stability and long-term goal.” Government policies have not always lasted. For example, the 2017 Industrial Strategy identified four “Grand Challenges” for the UK and a timeline for their completion. However, in 2021, the Council monitoring the Industrial Strategy was disbanded and the strategy was replaced by the Plan for Growth. This leaves the Government’s continued commitment to the Grand Challenges, at best, unclear. Gavin Costigan commented “it has a feeling of, ‘what was that all about? Why did you get us excited about all of that?’” The Government “absolutely agree that becoming a science superpower, achieving strategic advantage for the country in and through science and technology, is a long-term game. If it is vulnerable to changes in Government or changes to individual policies of individual Governments, it will not work.”
26.We heard of the desirability of a strategy remaining consistent despite changes of government. Professor Sarah Main pointed to “the pact for research and innovation, which is an initiative Germany has held since 2005. It sets out an annual increase in research and development budgets of 3% a year, and it is running until 2030. That is a crossparty, stable commitment.” Andrew McCosh considered the Government’s objectives to be “fundamentally bipartisan propositions … They are a national endeavour to do well. The Government have been encouraging us to engage the Devolved Administrations on this approach and to engage with opposition parties.” George Freeman “deliberately” used the phrase “innovation nation” because it was the title of a “Labour Party paper back in the 1990s … to signal that this is not a partisan project.”
27.Research and development is a long-term endeavour. It has been undermined by frequent policy changes especially when strategies that are supposed to be long-term are abandoned after a few years. The Government should make every effort to establish science and technology policy for the long term, building on existing policies and with clear, cross-party support.
28.We heard that the international element of a science and technology strategy will be vital for the UK. The Institute of Physics told us, “science is a global endeavour. … A strong international presence must be maintained, if we [the UK] are to remain in the vanguard of scientific discovery and innovation.” The Royal Academy of Engineering concluded: “succeeding as a science superpower won’t happen in isolation.”
29.The Integrated Review set out the own–collaborate–access framework, to guide the Government’s approach to international science and technology (see Box 1).
“The UK will seek to establish a leading role in critical and emerging technologies where there is a realistic prospect of delivering strategic advantage. A new ‘own–collaborate–access’ framework will guide our approach:
30.We heard contrasting views on the clarity with which the UK needs to define its intention to own, collaborate or access. Sir Patrick Vallance thought that when it came to ministerial choices “we need to get to the specificity of the aim: is it to own, collaborate or access?” George Freeman MP similarly said “to be credible, one has to be clear about where one is collaborating and where one is competing.” Kwasi Kwarteng described “own–collaborate–access” as a guideline, rather than a “rigid framework” and cautioned against “putting things into different watertight pots.”
31.Witnesses generally welcomed the framework “as a starter” and hoped it could “focus minds on some of the … decisions that we need to make.” We heard that it could not be applied to all areas of science and technology. Professor James Wilsdon, Digital Science Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield, thought that own–collaborate–access would apply only “to a specific subset of high-tech R&D debates.” Lord Willetts agreed that it would mostly be relevant to technologies with national security implications.
32.We heard concerns about the “notion of the UK owning domains of science”, with Professor Reid saying, “I just cannot work out how that operates.” By seeking to “own” an area of technology the UK could be cutting itself off from international progress because “collaboration across borders is increasingly important to be able to get the best out of research.” Professor Main thought that there was a risk that “co-operative efforts by other nations would … overtake what we [the UK] might do unilaterally.”
33.The situation with OneWeb demonstrated the importance of having a strategic framework for international science policy. In July 2020, the Government announced that it wanted to develop a “UK sovereign space capability” and it sought to do this, in part, by buying a stake in the satellite company, OneWeb. But the company relied on Russian rockets to launch its satellites. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the satellite launches were stopped in March 2022. The Government’s September 2021 National Space Strategy referred to the own-collaborate-access framework, but OneWeb’s dependence on Russian infrastructure was not resolved.
34.The own–collaborate–access framework is a useful starting point for approaching international science and technology policy. But it is insufficiently understood and poorly applied. It is not clear whether decisions have been taken on how the framework will apply to specific technologies. The Government must clarify the own–collaborate–access framework by publishing the areas of technology where it will be applied, and by explaining how it intends to balance owning, collaborating or accessing in these areas.
35.Cancer Research illustrated the importance of international collaboration: “nearly half of all UK cancer research and 43% of CRUK-supported clinical trials are international … cancer research is highly reliant on international clinical trials.” The Government agree collaboration is important. George Freeman cited the European Space Agency and research into nuclear fusion, describing collaboration in these areas as “fundamental if we want to share economies of scale, share best practice and accelerate our pursuit of progress.” Sir Patrick Vallance emphasised the importance of the UK continuing to be attractive to international talent.
36.We heard collaboration on science and technology offers diplomatic or soft power benefits. These benefits may be particularly valuable to the UK following its departure from the European Union. Dr Marga Gual Soler, International Science Diplomacy Expert, described the use of “science … as a diplomatic tool to bring countries together, often in situations in which political, diplomatic or other relationships are not at their best.” Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said “the soft power benefits of our science collaborations are huge”, citing the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine. She thought the Government was increasingly “recognising the geopolitical aspects of science, and diplomacy.”
37.We heard that the UK is harder to collaborate with than previously. Dr Soler was concerned about “the UK’s attractiveness as a partner for other countries to engage with … After Brexit, there are more challenges and bureaucracy.” Professor Sir Richard Friend, former Cavendish Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge, said that changes following Brexit gave “the impression that we are not quite as friendly a place to come to as we once were.” Alexandra Jones, Director of Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), thought that the UK remained “an attractive partner.” She argued this was reflected in the amount of international research and development investment the UK attracted and the continued flow of talent to the UK. Professor Friend agreed that it is not true that the UK is less friendly but said “we need to be careful when we have our internal debates … there is an international audience as well.”
38.Horizon Europe is the EU’s “key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion.” The UK was a prominent participant before leaving the EU. “Between 2014 and 2020, UK researchers received over €7bn from the ‘Horizon 2020’ programme … 12.1% of all the funds awarded, second only to Germany.” Much of the evidence we received expressed concern about the UK’s lack of association with Horizon Europe post-Brexit.
39.The Government wants to associate, and association was agreed in principle under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement 2020. However, it has not yet happened because of wider disagreements over the UK’s relationship with the EU. The Government has said it will spend the money currently earmarked for Horizon association on a “Plan B”, if it is unable to associate, although reports from July 2022 suggest that equivalent funding may not be allocated. Professor Chris Pearce, Vice-Principal for Research, University of Glasgow, summed up the situation: Horizon Europe “is one of the most successful, internationally collaborative research funding frameworks out there, and we are essentially being frozen out of it at the moment. Every university will give you examples of projects that are in limbo. We are not being included in new projects because we are seen as a risk. It is well documented that a number of ESRC grant holders are considering whether to take their prestigious awards elsewhere.” The European Research Council announced in June that it would terminate the preparation of 115 grants offered to UK-based researchers, and that 19 of the researchers had agreed to move abroad to keep their funding.
40.Official Development Assistance (ODA) is another component of the UK’s international science funding. Part of ODA goes through UKRI to support research partnerships between UK-based academics and those in other countries. In March 2021, UKRI announced that cuts in ODA had led to a “£120m gap between allocations and commitments to grant holders.” This meant that the UK pulled out of projects that had already started. Professor Watts conceded that “the impacts of the cuts in ODA were difficult for everybody to manage.” She noted that the Government had committed to return ODA spending to 0.7% of GDP. Despite the commitment to return to 0.7%, Professor Pearce said the temporary cuts “were extremely damaging, stalled progress on very significant collaborative research programmes all over the world and ultimately undermined our international reputation.”
41.Gavin Costigan said the cuts to ODA, the failure to associate with Horizon Europe and the rhetoric used in recent years has meant that the “UK has a little bit of repairing of relationships” to do. Of the UK’s international strategy as a whole, Professor Wilsdon concluded, “we have ended up with an international R&D strategy that at the moment feels somewhat incoherent.”
42.The Government’s inconsistent approach to international scientific collaboration has severely undermined the aspiration to be a “science and tech superpower.” The UK’s reputation and scientific capability have been damaged by the cuts to Official Development Assistance and the ongoing lack of association with Horizon Europe. The UK must be seen as a reliable partner, and the Government must recognise that it cannot reproduce the benefits of international collaborations domestically. A cross-Government science strategy must recognise the importance of international collaborations and steps must be taken to rebuild the UK’s reputation as a partner.
43.Organisations and individuals in the science and technology landscape will be expected to deliver a UK science and technology strategy. These include the National Science and Technology Council, the Office for Science and Technology Strategy, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Government departments, the civil service as well as business.
44.The new cabinet committee, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and its supporting body, the Office for Science and Technology Strategy (OSTS) under the National Technology Adviser, are intended to direct the Government’s strategic approach to science and technology. The objectives for the OSTS include “identifying and signalling UK priority outcomes from science and technology [and] defining and communicating the technologies that are critical to achieving these outcomes.” It will also “identify how the Government should use and direct their levers to optimise the S&T system.” The bodies will pull “together the different strands of policy … across government”. The OSTS has committed to publishing, by the end of 2022, clear targets and metrics to assess progress towards the ambition to make the UK a “science superpower”.
45.Many witnesses welcomed the establishment of the NSTC and the OSTS and hoped that, as a sub-committee of the cabinet, the NSTC would “promote science [and technology] within the centre of government.” Witnesses from other Government departments also welcomed the NSTC as a forum for discussing issues that cut across departments. Professor Sarah Main hoped the establishment of the bodies signalled a “move from the idea of science and research being contained within a pocket of one part of the department to it being an asset” for “the whole of government and UK society.” Professor Graeme Reid was cautiously optimistic, noting that their creation does not solve issues “in itself, but it creates prospects for addressing … issues that we have not had before.”
46.The OSTS has around 20 staff and should have 45 by the end of 2023, but it is yet to publish any substantive documents. At the time of writing, we understand the NSTC has met three times since it was established in July 2021. Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, wanted this to change, saying “it cannot be a once a year thing; it needs to be a very frequent committee.” Kwasi Kwarteng said “the number of meetings is not important; the agenda and focus are important. Some of the best committees I sit on meet three or four times a year. Some of the least effective probably meet much more frequently than that.”
47.We are concerned that the National Science and Technology Council has met only three times in the first year since it was established in July 2021. The National Science and Technology Council should meet regularly and frequently. Given the importance of science and technology to the UK, ten to twelve times per year seems more appropriate than three or four.
48.We are also surprised that no substantive documents have been produced by the Office for Science and Technology Strategy. The Office for Science and Technology Strategy should publish the outcomes of the Council’s decisions, and its substantive plans for the specific areas of cross-government working that it has identified. It is critical that this strategy is communicated widely.
49.To co-ordinate science and technology across Government, the appropriate departments need to be represented on the NSTC. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is central to several Government targets, particularly net zero by 2050, and it sponsors important arms-length public bodies, such as Natural England. Sir Patrick Vallance said meeting the Government’s ambitions “is reliant upon skills and talent” so he was “very encouraged by the fact that the DfE [Department for Education] is … linking very closely with the OSTS.” But neither of these departments is a full member of the NSTC. We heard that when an item of discussion at the NSTC is “particularly relevant” to a department, a representative would attend. Kwasi Kwarteng said that the membership of the NSTC was not “set in stone” but the initial preference was for a smaller membership.
50.The right people and the right science and technology skills will be crucial to becoming a “science and tech superpower.” The Office for Science and Technology Strategy should include “people and skills” as a core strand in its work to coordinate a science and technology strategy across Government.
51.Given the centrality of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education to science and technology, there is a compelling case that they should be present at every meeting of the National Science and Technology Council. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education should have representatives as full members of the National Science and Technology Council.
52.As Figure 1, from the Government Office for Science, sets out with important caveats, there are numerous science and technology bodies in, or linked to, the Government. Witnesses described the “complexity of the research and innovation landscape in the UK.” The Royal Society of Edinburgh feared the NSTC and the OSTS “could further clutter” an “exceedingly complex” R&D system. Lord Willetts welcomed the bodies, but said it “would be a disaster” if they just added “an extra tier of bureaucracy.” The National Aeronautical Society said the “terms of reference, aims, objectives, roles and responsibilities of each aspect” of the science and technology landscape need to be explained to avoid conflict and duplication.
53.Rather than adding to complexity, some witnesses hoped that the establishment of cross-governmental bodies could “improve the coherence of the … science policy and funding landscape” by “presenting a more rationalised framework for how its constituent bodies interact with one another.” This seems to be the Government’s intention: Andrew McCosh acknowledged that “there is some overhead to having a central function, but our intention is that we make the overall process slicker, more efficient and more decisive.”
54.Sir Patrick Vallance said, “the only things that I think should come to the OSTS and the NSTC are things that do not sit in a single department.” Professor Dame Angela McLean, Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Defence, hoped the NSTC and OSTS would be able to add value by leading on issues that sit between departments. She described the issue of “position, navigation and timing”, where “because it is such a big issue for every department there is no emergent lead department.” While the NSTC and OSTS could add value here, we heard that it will be vital to have clarity on which Government bodies are accountable for meeting objectives. Sir Patrick Vallance identified the need for a “single point of accountability with an empowered leader” for the delivery of a specific goal as one of the key lessons learned from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. He said this was “not an easy thing to do across Whitehall … but is important.”
55.We note that the minister responsible for science has not been a full member of cabinet since the remit was split from that of universities in 2020. There have been six changes in the minister in charge of science since 2018 At the time of writing, there was no science minister in post and it was unclear whether one would be appointed.
56.Gavin Costigan highlighted the importance of “the relationship between [the NSTC] and UKRI as the main funding agency.” We cover UKRI in detail in the next section, but it is responsible for the majority of public research and development funding, so its relationship with the NSTC will be critical. Figure 1 does not include “reporting lines” of accountability so it does not explain UKRI’s relationship with the NSTC and OSTS, nor how accountability will be apportioned between these bodies.
57.We welcome the establishment of a cabinet level committee for discussing and directing matters of science and technology in the form of the National Science and Technology Council and its supporting body the Office for Science and Technology Strategy. But, a year after their establishment, the remits of these bodies remain unclear. We do not know how they will interact with existing bodies, such as UK Research and Innovation. Without clarification we cannot be confident that they will add any value to an already complex landscape. We urge the Government to clarify the remits of the National Science and Technology Council and the Office for Science and Technology Strategy. It should set out how they interact with existing Government bodies, especially UK Research and Innovation. These organisations should simplify and organise the science and technology landscape, not complicate it further.
58.There need to be clear lines of accountability for policies that cut across departments. It should be clear which individual is accountable. The National Science and Technology Council and Office for Science and Technology Strategy must identify the areas of cross-departmental work they will coordinate. They should identify individuals to be accountable for specific elements of the strategy, and ensure they have appropriate levers to do so.
59.We are concerned that the position of Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation was vacant at the time of writing. Accountability for the delivery of the Government’s overall science and technology strategy should sit with the minister responsible for science and technology, which should be a cabinet-level position.
60.UKRI was established in 2018, following the 2015 Nurse Review. UKRI is the main source of Government R&D funding. It unites the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. These bodies were combined to standardise the research funding landscape, to allow the research councils to collaborate more effectively and to encourage interdisciplinary research. The projects and facilities it funds cover different areas of science and technology and different modes of research—for example, blue-skies and applied research, as well as support for entrepreneurs, and research and innovation in companies.
61.Funding for UKRI rose from £7.7 billion in 2021–22 to £7.9 billion in 2022–23 and it will rise to £8.9 billion in 2024–25. The newly announced funding allocations cover three years, compared with previous one-year allocations. The longer funding period means that more of the budget is unallocated to ongoing, or already announced, activities. For 2024–25, 53% of the budget is not yet committed.
62.In March 2022 UKRI published a five-year strategy, which set out its priorities. The objectives cut across policy areas and government departments, and include:
63.Some witnesses feared that UKRI was being asked to do too much beyond its core remit of funding excellent research. Gavin Costigan said: “we have asked [UKRI] to do a large number of things, some of which are not completely contradictory but certainly pull it in slightly different directions.” In contrast, Kwasi Kwarteng argued: “given … the scale of the money we are spending … It is entirely fair for us to set quite stringent and ambitious goals.”
64.There is concern that asking UKRI to meet additional Government targets could endanger its support for blue-skies research. Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive Officer, UK Research and Innovation acknowledged “feedback from the [research] community” that UKRI has “shifted the focus” away from basic discovery science and towards applied research to support the Government’s policy priorities. Professor Pearce said that “it feels as if the language we hear [from UKRI] is that it is always trying to protect that responsive [discovery] mode against other strategic imperatives”. Dame Ottoline emphasised that “the total amount invested in completely pure discovery science has gone up year on year through UKRI.”
65.Dame Ottoline agreed that UKRI was being asked to achieve a lot but said targets could be met by ensuring “every pound [is] doing multiple things”. She said that meeting the Government’s targets will require new skills in UKRI, not just “handle-cranking and processing grants”, but “high-quality analytical skills … to interface with government and our diverse communities”. She also said UKRI would require additional resources and appealed for “far fewer ring-fences” to allow for more flexibility in awarding funding that achieves multiple objectives.
66.Since December 2021, Sir David Grant has led an independent review into UKRI and it is expected to report in summer 2022. The ongoing Tickell review into bureaucracy, the Gluckman review into the Research Excellence Framework, and the Nurse review into the R&D landscape all relate to UKRI. We heard concerns that these reviews were coming too soon after UKRI had been established; that they would create more work for UKRI; and that they may lead to an unfairly negative impression of it. Kwasi Kwarteng described how the science and technology landscape is “drowning in a swelter of reviews.” George Freeman agreed “that for scientists who just want it to work and want to be allowed get on it is frustrating.” But he argued that the reviews were needed to ensure the system was working well ahead of it receiving additional funding. He explained that his “ambition is that this summer, the three reviews of UKRI—the Grant, Tickell, and the Nurse reviews—will have landed and will have been adopted … UKRI will be able to breathe.”
67.UK Research and Innovation is expected to deliver on a range of Government priorities as well as its core function of funding excellent research. It has to respond to priorities from multiple bodies, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, its research councils, and now potentially the National Science and Technology Council and Office for Science and Technology Strategy. The role and accountabilities of UK Research and Innovation and its board, particularly as they apply to wider Government policies, must be clarified. It is critical that the organisation is sufficiently and flexibly resourced, and well-connected across government. It should not lose focus on funding blue-skies research.
68.UK Research and Innovation is affected by numerous reviews despite only being established in 2018. It is not realistic to expect it to function as well as it could in such a context. Once the reviews are finished, UK Research and Innovation should be allowed to operate in a more certain policy environment.
69.As part of the Government’s heightened ambitions for science and technology, R&D budgets for Government departments will increase under the 2021 Spending Review. BEIS has published detailed allocations of its spending plans, including a three-year funding settlement and how it will be apportioned between the bodies it supports. But other departments have not provided as much information. Some of these departmental research budgets are likely to be allocated to public sector research and development organisations, which play an important role in UK science and technology. As they are being reviewed under the Nurse review and by the cabinet Office in response to the science capability review recommendations, we do not consider them in depth in this report.
£ billion (2021 prices)
Total R&D expenditure
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Of which: core research
Of which: Innovate UK
Of which: EU programme association
Department of Health and Social Care
(Total R&D Official Development Assistance)
Source: Reproduced from Table 2.2 of the 2021 Spending Review. HM Treasury, Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021: A stronger economy for the British people (27 October 2021) HC 822, p 54: [accessed 13 June 2022]
70.Although planned budgetary increases are substantial, we heard they are often undoing departmental research budgets cuts since 2010. Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair, Natural Environment Research Council, described the increases as a “restocking of those budgets.” Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, noted that “in 2008 … we [DEFRA] had an R&D budget of £198 million … by 2019, it had shrunk to £53 million.” This damaged “a department with a substantive science need”. He welcomed that “by the end of the spending review period, it will be £236 million.”
71.Lord Willetts noted that “departments cut their R&D budgets when they are under public spending pressure,” so the worsening economic context is of concern. Professor Paul Monks, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, thought that “if we … can demonstrate the value of departmental R&D as distinct in what it can deliver, that will make the case for its continuation stronger.”
Note the majority is allocated via UKRI or directly to higher education institutions.
72.Witnesses welcomed the increased R&D funding for Government departments as allowing space for more collaboration between research councils and government. But we heard concern of duplication if coordination between departments and research bodies was inadequate. Lord Willetts hoped that “rather than creating … extra bureaucracy inside each department, they can use UKRI as a delivery agency.” Kwasi Kwarteng expected NSTC discussions would lead to “greater co-ordination between R&D budgets across departments.”
73.Sir Patrick Vallance told us that “we have … asked that each department publishes its areas of research interest annually, so that it can say to the outside world, academia and others what it does not know about and how it cares about it.” Not all departments have published areas of research interest and others have not updated them since 2017. We heard from the Campaign for Science and Engineering that “more needs to be done to make the most of” areas of research interest.
74.We welcome the increase in research and development funding for Government departments. But we are concerned that this could result in duplication of work being done by UK Research and Innovation. Some departments have published areas of research interest, but some have not, and many have not updated them for some time. Departments should co-ordinate with UK Research and Innovation on research activities to address their areas of research interest, and on managing grants, to avoid duplication. Departmental areas of research interest should be updated annually and specific research questions identified.
75.We heard that as departmental research and development budgets increase, scientific expertise will be needed to ensure departments can be “intelligent customers.” Witnesses highlighted the importance of science advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Science advice across Government is largely provided by the Government Office for Science. Within departments it is the responsibility of the departmental Chief Scientific Adviser.
76.The Government Office for Science “advises the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, to ensure that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking.” It is headed by Sir Patrick Vallance as Chief Scientific Adviser. This means that he currently has a role both in providing the advice for science policy and in defining science policy through his role as National Technology Adviser, heading the Government’s separate Office for Science and Technology Strategy. He indicated that different people may fill these roles in the future. The Government Office for Science also supports the Council for Science and Technology, and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
77.There are 20 Chief Scientific Advisers across “nearly all departments.” They are also in other public bodies, such as the police. The role of Chief Scientific Adviser varies between departments but their core functions are similar:
In November 2019, the Government Office for Science published Realising our ambition through science: A review of Government Science Capability. This made “recommendations for enhancing the use of science to promote government effectiveness and better policy-making”. On Chief Scientific Advisers it recommended:
78.The review of Government science capability (see Box 2) made a powerful case for enhancing the role of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers. It found that one function they could usefully perform was signing off departmental research plans. Professor Watts said that she has “prime responsibility” for the “earmarked capital budget” for research and development. In the Ministry of Defence, 1.2% of the budget is reserved for “science and technology under the control of the CSA.” Other Chief Scientific Advisers do not appear to have equivalent responsibilities.
79.The Government science capability review also recommended that Chief Scientific Advisers should be used to align science policy across Government. We heard that this is already happening to some extent—it was described as a “very strong network” that meets once a week. There are also “regular meetings between the CSAs and the chairs of the research councils to look at areas of government interest and UKRI spend and try to make sure that we get those joined up.” Professor Dame Angela Mclean described this as a “great basis … but it needs more.” She explained that “most CSAs are not career civil servants. We are not here for all that long.” It is inadequate to rely on personal relationships, especially where people are not in post for long. The “right infrastructure” will be required. Dame Angela hoped that the OSTS could play a role in building “at officials level an absolutely rock-solid set of interactions across departments.”
80.The Chief Scientific Adviser network is effective and well-coordinated. It presents an important opportunity to align scientific objectives across Government and to support the role of the National Science and Technology Council. The Government science capability review recommendations on Chief Scientific Advisers should be implemented. Every department should have an independent, external expert as Chief Scientific Adviser, and departments should be able to hire additional science advisers if expertise is required on a topic. Part of the role of a Chief Scientific Adviser should be in approving departmental research and development spending.
81. The importance of the national science and technology strategy, and the increased departmental science and technology budgets, means that Government must be an intelligent customer for science and technology. Stuart Wainwright, Director, Government Office for Science, said that the Government Office for Science is “trying to encourage all the civil service to have more scientists, engineers and other experts within it.” We heard that the network of scientists and engineers in BEIS had over 300 members, but the specialisms or total number of scientists and engineers is not recorded. There are plans to improve data collection that “will go some way towards answering [such] questions” in the future. It is unclear whether other departments have such data.
82.Sir Patrick Vallance and Stuart Wainwright thought the civil service fast stream should be used to increase the number of scientists in the civil service. There is a specific science and engineering fast stream which “has more than doubled in the last few years.” However, this is small compared to the overall size of the fast stream. The general fast stream is open to any graduate, but it does not recruit a high proportion of science graduates. Sir Patrick noted that the number of individuals in the general stream with science and engineering degrees “has not budged much” from 10% in 2019. He said that “there is a clear ambition now to get that … heading up towards 50%.” Since we heard from Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government announced that, as part of efforts to reduce the number of civil servants by 91,000, recruitment via the fast stream will be paused in 2023.
83.Stuart Wainwright pointed to initiatives beyond the fast stream to encourage scientists into Government: “the other thing we are trying to do is smooth out the interchange, allow easier, freer mechanisms to come into government. We have established some of these things ourselves in GO-Science in the last few years.” Sir Patrick Vallance described how he is “co-sponsoring a piece of work with Sarah Healey from DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] on greater … movement between academia, high tech and the civil service”.
84.While directly hiring more scientists would be welcome, we heard that developing cross-cutting expertise is important. Louise Dunsby said: “You really need scientists and engineers who understand the policy and political landscape, and policy people who can talk intelligently to scientists and engineers.” The Science Capability Review was clear that scientific knowledge should not be confined to specialists recruited to science roles, but those in policy roles should be scientifically literate and training could be offered to that effect.
85.The civil service needs more science capability, not just in specialist roles and not only by direct employment. It needs effective processes for drawing on outside expertise. The Government acknowledges the need for more scientists in the civil service and the ambition that we heard from Sir Patrick Vallance to approach 50 per cent of science and engineering graduates for recruitment to the civil service generalist fast stream is welcome. This target needs regular monitoring and reporting.
86.The Office for Science and Technology Strategy should monitor progress towards the target to increase the number of science and engineering graduates on the fast stream. The Government should record the number of scientists and engineers in departments and their specialisms.
8 The Integrated Review defines the ambition as “[By 2030], we will be recognised as a Science and Tech Superpower remaining at least third in the world in relevant performance measures for scientific research and innovation, and having established a leading edge in critical areas such as artificial intelligence.” It does not define the performance measures or critical areas that it will assess. HM Government, Global Britain in a competitive age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (March 2021) p 7: [accessed 8 June 2022]
9 (George Freeman MP)
10 For example: (Dr Beth Thompson MBE and Lord Willetts); (Professor Sarah Main); and (Sir Patrick Vallance)
11 ‘World University Rankings 2022’, Times Higher Education (2 September 2021): [accessed 24 June 2022]
12 For example, (Sir Patrick Vallance): “It is very frequently stated in the UK that we are world class at something without a definition of what we mean by that, or indeed without any comparative data.”. The 2020 Budget talked of the UK’s “world-beating science and research base”, and ministers have written about the UK’s “world beating scientists.” HM Treasury, ‘Budget 2020’ (12 March 2020): ; and Alok Sharma, ‘Our world beating scientists will be vital to firing up the UK’s economic recovery, The Telegraph (1 July 2020): [accessed 24 June 2022]
13 Written evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society ()
14 The seven areas identified were: “Advanced materials and manufacturing; AI, digital, and advanced computing; Bioinformatics and genomics; Engineering biology; Electronics, photonics, and quantum [technologies]; Energy … environmental, [and climate] technologies; and Robotics and smart machines.” Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it’ (22 July 2021): [accessed 8 June 2022]
15 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it’ (22 July 2021) p 85: [accessed 8 June 2022]
16 HM Government, ‘Office for Science and Technology Strategy’: [accessed 8 June 2022]
17 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
18 (Andrew McCosh)
19 Written evidence from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
20 Lord Willetts is in the Conservative Party.
21 (Lord Willetts)
22 Council for Science and Technology, ‘The UK as a science and technology superpower’ (22 July 2021): [accessed 8 June 2022]. The members of the Council for Science and Technology are “senior figures from the fields of science, engineering and technology”, chosen by the Prime Minister. It is chaired by Sir Patrick Vallance and Lord Browne of Madingley. The Council for Science and Technology, ‘Membership’: [accessed 8 June 2022]
23 The Haldane principle means that decisions on what research to fund should be made by researchers, not politicians. It is an important protection of “blue skies” research—i.e. research that is curiosity driven and does not have an immediate practical application. For example in written evidence from the University of Edinburgh () it said it “strongly supports” the principle and “would robustly defend any intervention which would erode this via setting of what may be relatively transient priorities between Governments”
24 Written evidence from Professor Annette Boaz and Dr Kathryn Oliver, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ()
25 Andrew McCosh. A version of the Haldane principle is in the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. This formulation states the Secretary of State must “have regard” to the principle when making grants or giving directions to UK Research and Innovation. Higher Education and Research Act 2017,
26 (Professor Graeme Reid)
27 (Helen Kennett); HM Government, The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (November 2020): [accessed 8 June 2022]
28 Council for Science and Technology, ‘The UK as a science and technology superpower’ (22 July 2021): [accessed 24 June 2022]
29 Written evidence from Cancer Research UK ()
30 (Andrew McCosh)
31 Written evidence from the NCC Group ()
32 HM Government, Life Sciences Vision (6 July 2021): [accessed 8 June 2022]
33 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Towards Fusion Energy: The UK Government’s Fusion Strategy (October 2021) [accessed 14 June 2022]
34 HM Government, National AI Strategy (September 2021): [accessed 14 June 2022]
35 Written evidence from the NCC Group ()
36 Written evidence from the Academy of Medical Sciences ()
37 Written evidence from the Academy of Medical Sciences ()
38 (Gavin Costigan)
39 Written evidence from the Association of Medical Research Charities ()
40 HM Treasury, Department for Trade and Industry and Department for Education and Skills, Science and innovation investment framework 2004–2014 (July 2004), p 7: ; GDP data taken from the OECD Key indicators: OECD, ‘Gross domestic spending on R&D’ (2022): [accessed 8 June 2022]
41 (Professor Graeme Reid)
42 (Professor Sarah Main)
43 HM Government, Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future (27 November 2017): ; Jim Pickard and Daniel Thomas, ‘Business dismay at decision to drop plan for UK industrial strategy’, Financial Times (8 March 2021): [accessed 24 June 2022]
44 This Committee dedicated a chapter of its report, Ageing: Science, Technology, and Healthy Living, to the Grand Challenge to ensure five years of extra healthy life by 2035. The Government’s response noted that the Industrial Strategy had been replaced by the Plan for Growth and referred to activities related to the Ageing Society Grand Challenge in the past tense. In any case, the Committee found that the Government was “not on track” and did “not appear to be monitoring progress towards the mission.” There was “no clear ownership” or “cross-government[al] strategy for achieving the mission.” Science and Technology Committee, (1st Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 183); Government Response from the Department of Health and Social Care to the Science and Technology Committee, Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living report (15 March 2021): [accessed 8 July 2022]
45 (Gavin Costigan)
46 (Andrew McCosh)
47 (Professor Sarah Main)
48 (Andrew McCosh)
49 (George Freeman MP)
50 Written evidence from the Institute of Physics (). Similar sentiments were contained in numerous submissions, including: the British Heart Foundation () “Medical research is international and hugely collaborative.”
51 Written evidence from the Royal Academy of Engineering ()
52 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
53 (George Freeman MP)
54 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
55 (Professor James Wilsdon); (Professor Charlotte Watts)
56 Professor James Wilsdon
57 (Lord Willetts)
58 (Professor Graeme Reid)
59 (Dr Beth Thompson MBE)
60 (Professor Sarah Main)
61 BBC, ‘UK government takes £400m stake in satellite firm OneWeb’ (3 July 2020): [accessed 24 June 2022]
62 BBC, ‘OneWeb: UK satellite firm suspends use of Russian rockets’ (3 March 2022): ; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Space Agency, and The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, ‘UK government secures satellite network OneWeb’ (20 November 2020): [accessed 24 June 2022]
63 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Defence and UK Space Agency, ‘National space strategy’ (1 February 2022): [accessed 22 June 2022]
64 Written evidence from Cancer Research UK ()
65 (George Freeman MP)
66 (Sir Patrick Vallance). “A lot of the success in the UK has come from immigration.” Similarly, (Sir Adrian Smith) said: “Going forward, the key thing one would keep coming back to is talent and the flow of talent, and being internationally competitive in being able to recruit and retain talent”
67 Written evidence from the Institute of Physics ()
68 (Dr Marga Gual Soler)
69 (Professor Charlotte Watts)
70 (Dr Marga Gual Soler)
71 (Professor Sir Richard Friend)
72 (Alexandra Jones)
73 (Professor Sir Richard Friend)
74 European Commission, ‘Horizon Europe’: [accessed 21 June 2022]
75 Written evidence from the British Heart Foundation ()
76 For example (Professor Sir Richard Friend): “The first thing one has to say is that many of us have spent most of our working careers getting along extremely well with Europe. It has been very attractive to be able to fish in a pond about the same size as the USA to find the collaborations we want. If you are in a smaller research field, which I have always been, it has been necessary to find collaborations on that scale. Of course we can look more broadly, but it is extremely important that we do not allow those excellent relationships to lapse. We have to make that work.”; and written evidence from the Royal Society (): “Delivering on association is the best way to ensure UK and EU scientists maximise the rich collaborative opportunities the programme offers. Plan A still has the full support of the UK’s research and innovation community.”
77 European Commission, Q&A on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe (22 December 2021): [accessed 21 June 2022]; Declarations referred to in the Council Decision on the signing on behalf of the Union, and on a provisional application of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and of the Agreement concerning security procedures for exchanging and protecting classified information, , 31 December 2020
78 (George Freeman MP) “On Horizon, you have heard me say on record often that the Government’s policy continues to be that we want to associate.” Leonie Kijewski and Cristina Gallardo, ‘Brexit tensions mean Brits won’t get EU science cash, Brussels warns’, Politico (19 May 2022): ; and Letter from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs to Lord Kinnoull, Chair of European Affairs Committee, ‘The UK’s participation in the Horizon Europe programme’ (9 May 2022): [accessed 21 June 2022]
79 (George Freeman MP); Clive Cookson, ‘UK sets out £6bn plan B science fund if EU blocks association with Horizon’, Financial Times (6 February 2022): [accessed 21 June 2022]; and George Parker and Clive Cookson, ‘UK science minister in dispute with Treasury over post-Brexit funding’, Financial Times (2 July 2022) [accessed 5 July 2022]
80 (Professor Chris Pearce)
81 “The grants of 19 UK based researchers will be moved to a host institution in the EU or associated countries following the researchers’ decisions to exercise their right to portability.” David Matthews, ‘European Research Council withdraws the grants of 115 researchers based in the UK, as 19 scientists decide to relocate’, Science Business (30 June 2022): [accessed 8 July 2022]
82 UK Research and Innovation, ‘UKRI required to review Official Development Assistance funding’ (11 March 2021): [accessed 21 June 2022]
83 (Professor Charlotte Watts)
84 (Professor Chris Pearce)
85 (Gavin Costigan)
86 (Professor James Wilsdon)
87 HM Government, ‘Office for Science and Technology Strategy’: [accessed 8 June 2022]
88 (Louise Dunsby)
89 HM Government, ‘Office for Science and Technology Strategy’: [accessed 8 June 2022]; (Andrew McCosh)
90 (Andrew McCosh)
91 (Dr Beth Thompson MBE). Lord Willetts described the establishment of the NSTC as an “excellent initiative” (Lord Willetts); Professor James Wilsdon “welcome[d] the existence of the new committee” (Professor James Wilsdon); and Professor Graeme Reid described its establishment as “a very good move.” (Professor Graeme Reid)
92 For example, Stuart Wainwright from the Government Office for Science and Technology said “the creation of OSTS is actually a really good thing for us. It gives us a strong new partner.” (Stuart Wainwright OBE)
93 (Professor Sarah Main)
94 (Professor Graeme Reid)
95 (Andrew McCosh). This was the case as of 15 March 2022.
96 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
97 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
98 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
99 (Professor Gideon Henderson)
100 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
101 The caveats to keep in mind were summarised by the Government Office for Science: written evidence from the Government Office for Science ()
102 (Professor Alison Park)
103 Written evidence from the Royal Society of Edinburgh ()
104 (Lord Willetts)
105 Written evidence from the National Aeronautical Society ()
106 Written evidence from the Royal Society of Edinburgh ()
107 (Andrew McCosh)
108 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
109 (Professor Dame Angela McLean)
110 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
111 Éanna Kelly, ‘UK government finally confirms new science minister’, Science Business (20 February 2020): [accessed 15 July 2022]
112 Between January 2018 and February 2020, Sam Gyimah (then MP), Chris Skidmore MP, Lord Johnson of Marylebone, and then Chris Skidmore again held the post of Minister of State for Universities, Science, research, and Innovation. This was then split into the roles of Minister of State for Universities and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation, the latter of which was held by Amanda Solloway MP and then George Freeman MP until his resignation in July 2022. Department for Education and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation’, ; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Science, Research and Innovation)’, ; and Jamie Durrani, ‘UK without science minister as Horizon Europe uncertainty rumbles on’, Chemistry World (11 July 2022): [accessed 15 July 2022]
113 (Gavin Costigan) The Institute of Physics (), as an example, said: “ The R&D ecosystem is broad and complex, and mission—and challenge-led innovation is vital to bring together cross-disciplinary researchers … to help solve … challenges, such as achieving net zero.”
114 A Review of the UK Research Councils by Sir Paul Nurse, Ensuring a successful UK research endeavour: A Review of the UK Research Councils, (19 November 2015) Governance and Structures, Recommendation 8, page 33: [accessed 17 June 2022]
115 The seven councils are: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Economic and Social Research Council (ERC); Medical Research Council (MRC); Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Research England gives block grant (Quality Related) funding to universities and Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. Neither are “true” research councils, but they have been brought under UKRI to encourage collaboration.
116 A Review of the UK Research Councils by Sir Paul Nurse, Ensuring a successful UK research endeavour: A Review of the UK Research Councils, (19 November 2015) Recommendation 9, page 33: [accessed 17 June 2022]
117 It is not possible to adjust for inflation, but this may not constitute a rise in real terms. Sophie Inge, ‘Inflation fears mar ‘record’ UKRI budget’, Research Professional News (01 June 2022): ; UK Research and Innovation, ‘Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser PowerPoint presentation’: . Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser explained how the UKRI funding was allocated in the last financial year: “In 21/22 we will invest (% of budget): £690m in PhD students/skills (9%), £180m in fellowships (2%); £950m in responsive research (12%), £530m in research targeting priorities (7%), £1,680m in university research (QR) (21%); £980m in infrastructure (12%), £850m in research institutes (11%); £540m in challenge-led funding (Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund) (7%); £530m in responsive innovation (7%), £240m in Catapults (3%); £480m in international collaboration (6%); £390m in targeted Covid-19 funding (5%).”[accessed 28 June 2022]
118 UK Research and Innovation, ‘UKRI’s three-year budget is confirmed’ (14 March 2022): [accessed 17 June 2022]
119 UK Research and Innovation, 2022–23 – 2024–25 budget allocations for UK Research and Innovation: [accessed 17 June 2022]
120 UK Research and Innovation, ‘UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027’ (17 March 2022): [accessed 17 June 2022]
121 UK Research and Innovation, ‘UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027’ (17 March 2022) “Outcomes and impacts from world-leading research and innovation”: [accessed 16 June 2022]
122 (Gavin Costigan)
123 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
124 (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser)
125 (Professor Chris Pearce)
126 (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser)
127 (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser)
128 (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser)
129 (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser). Dame Ottoline also said UKRI’s “data systems are in desperate need of upgrades” to allow it to create the “information resource, which is key to our investment strategy.”
130 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Independent review of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI): terms of reference’ (6 December 2021): [accessed 16 June 2022]. The review would investigate whether UKRI was achieving its core objectives and how it compared to similar organisations internationally.
131 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and UK Research and Innovation, ‘Review of research bureaucracy: terms of reference’ (12 January 2022): ; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Research, development and innovation organisational landscape: an independent review’ (20 January 2022): ; and UK Research and Innovation, ‘Launch of the future research assessment programme’ (19 May 2021): [accessed 16 June 2022]. The REF review affects UKRI because the REF determines how Research England allocates its funding.
132 (Professor Sir Duncan Wingham)
133 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
134 (George Freeman MP)
135 (George Freeman MP)
136 HM Treasury, Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021: A stronger economy for the British people (27 October 2021) HC 822: [accessed 8 June 2022]
137 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘BEIS research and development (R&D): partner organisation allocation 2022–2023 to 2024–2025’ (30 May 2022): [accessed 13 June 2022]
138 Third-country EU programme (Horizon, Euratom, ITER) participation contributions. Estimates are forecast in line with the terms agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and using latest EU Budget and UK/EU27 economic data. Does not include Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs funding for Copernicus, which is calculated by the same methodology. The Government has committed to spending substantial funding on an alternative ‘Plan B’ scheme if the UK cannot associate with Horizon Europe. Clive Cookson, ‘UK sets out £6bn plan B science fund if EU blocks association with Horizon’, Financial Times (6 February 2022): [accessed 13 June 2022]
139 Includes Cabinet Office; Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Department for Education; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Department for Transport; Department for Work and Pensions; Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; HM Revenue and Customs; Home Office; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of Justice; and Single Intelligence Account.
140 R&D Official Development Assistance across: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Department of Health and Social Care; and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
141 Campaign for Science and Engineering, ‘CaSE analysis of 2021 Spending Review’ (28 October 2021): ; and ‘Government R&D hit by disproportionate cuts’ (10 October 2012): [accessed 13 June 2022]
142 (Professor Sir Duncan Wingham)
143 (Professor Gideon Henderson)
144 (Lord Willetts)
145 (Professor Paul Monks)
146 Office for National Statistics, ‘Research and development expenditure by the UK government: 2019’ (16 April 2021): [accessed 13 June 2022]
147 (Professor Paul Monks); (Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser); (Gavin Costigan); and (Professor Allison Park) said the budgets would be “an excellent opportunity to try to expand … collaboration” between research councils and departments. Similarly, (Professor Sir Duncan Wingham): “we are going back to a welcome situation of working together more with them [Government departments] now.”
148 (Lord Willetts)
149 (Kwasi Kwarteng MP)
150 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
151 Government Office for Science and Cabinet Office, ‘Areas of research interest (ARI)’ (28 January 2022): [accessed 13 June 2022]
152 Written evidence from Campaign for Science and Engineering ()
153 (Professor Gideon Henderson)
154 The Science Council thought that “the essential role played by scientists, technologists, technicians and researchers in Government has never been more obvious than during the COVID-19 pandemic.”. Written evidence from the Science Council (). Stuart Wainwright said the COVID-19 pandemic had “shown to every government department how intrinsically important science and engineering is to policy-making and delivery in government.” (Stuart Wainwright OBE)
155 It lists its main priorities as “supporting national growth and increasing the UK’s productivity by linking science, innovation and industrial enterprise; supporting regional growth by building on existing science and innovation activity across the country; using technology to develop modern and cheaper public services; preventing or addressing emergencies and mapping national security risks” Government Office for Science, ‘About us’: [accessed 16 June 2022]
156 YouTube video on ‘How can the NSTC and the OSTS direct S&T priorities?’ by the Foundation for Science and Technology (26 January 2022): [accessed 13 June 2022]
157 The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is commonly known by its acronym: SAGE.
158 (Sir Patrick Vallance) According to the Government’s website, as of June 2022, the Ministry of Defence (Nuclear), Ministry of Justice, and Northern Ireland Executive CSA roles are vacant. It is unclear which additional bodies may ultimately have a Chief Scientific Adviser role. For example, the Food Standards Agency as a non-ministerial department has one, but the National Crime Agency does not. HM Government, ‘Chief Scientific Advisers’: [accessed 16 June 2022]
159 For more please see Science and Technology Select Committee, (4th Report, Session 2010–12, HL Paper 264)
160 (Professor Charlotte Watts)
161 (Professor Dame Angela McLean)
162 (Professor Lucy Chappell and Professor Dame Angela McLean)
163 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
164 (Professor Dame Angela McLean)
165 According to the Government’s advice on Chief Scientific Advisers, they are “normally in post for a period of 3 to 5 years.” Government Office for Science, Guidance for government Chief Scientific Advisers and their Officials: Chief Scientific Advisers and their officials: an introduction (January 2020) p 21: [accessed 13 June 2022]
166 (Professor Lucy Chappell)
167 (Professor Dame Angela McLean)
168 (Stuart Wainwright OBE)
169 Supplementary written evidence from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
170 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
171 Statistics from 2021 showed that the science and engineering fast stream had 51 successful applicants, compared with 1,072 fast streamers in total and 404 “generalist” fast streamers. Cabinet Office, Civil Service HR, and Government Skills and Curriculum Unit, Civil Service Fast Stream Recruitment Data 2021, Table 33 (10 December 2021): [accessed 10 June 2022]
172 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
173 Eleanor Langford and Adam Payne, ‘Angry Civil Servants Say They Were Blindsided By Plans To Suspend Graduate Scheme’, PoliticsHome (19 May 2022): ; and Emily McGarvey, ‘Civil service pauses fast-track graduate scheme to cut staff numbers’, BBC (31 May 2022): [accessed 10 June 2022]
174 (Stuart Wainwright OBE)
175 (Sir Patrick Vallance)
176 (Louise Dunsby)
177 “The Government Science and Engineering (GSE) Profession Board should work with the Analysis Function Board to ensure that the civil service as a whole has the scientific skills it needs and the mechanisms to deploy them effectively through the wider civil service functional agenda being led by the Cabinet Office. Plans should be developed to remedy any shortages (working with UKRI and the Department for Education where appropriate), reporting early in 2020.” Government Office for Science, Realising our ambition through science: A review of Government Science Capability (November 2019) p 9: [accessed 10 June 2022]