Recent highlights

These posts are some of the recent highlights from the CaSE blog. To see all of our recent news and commentary, please see our full blog.

Devolved elections 2016 – where the parties stand on science and engineering

The public are increasingly interested in science and engineering, not least because of the vital role that these sectors play in creating a strong economy, high value jobs, and healthier, happier lives. By the time people cast their votes, they need to know how each party would respond to the challenges facing the sector.

Therefore, in the run-up to 2016 elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, CaSE has sought to make science and engineering an election issue. CaSE wrote to the leader of each of the main political Parties, asking them to set out their policies on science and engineering ahead of the 2016 election. The responses we recieved along with our analysis of party commitments from their manifestos and their letters to CaSE can be found by nation on the links below: Polling-Station

Scottish 2016 election

Welsh 2016 election

Northern Ireland 2016 election

 

 

 

 

 

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CaSE welcomes the Royal Society of Edinburgh as new members

Royal Society of Edinburgh

CaSE is pleased to announce that the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is joining as an organisational member.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, was established in 1783 and encompasses a wide range of disciplines – science & technology, arts, humanities, social science, business and public service.  This breadth of expertise makes the RSE unique in the UK.

Read More »

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CaSE welcomes new members the BRE Trust

BRE Trust

The Campaign for Science and Engineering is pleased to announce that the BRE Trust has joined CaSE as an organisational member.

The BRE Trust is the largest independent UK charity focused on research and education in the built environment. Set up in 2002 to advance knowledge, innovation and communication for public benefit, the Trust uses all profits made by the BRE Group to fund new research and education programmes that will help to meet its goal of ‘building a better world together’.

Read More »

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Lords find strong EU support among science community

EUCaSE has responded to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report on EU membership and UK science, published today. The report finds overwhelming enthusiasm for EU membership amongst the science community. Read More »

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Good news from BIS on anti-lobbying clause

The Department for Business, Innovation and Science (BIS) have today confirmed intention to exclude core research funders from the scope of a new anti-lobbying clause in government grants. Read More »

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The science-shaped gap in Wales’ cultural perception

On 24th September 1896 in Saundersfoot, South Wales, Bill Frost made the first powered human flight. He beat the Wright brothers to it by an astonishing 7 years. That is, if you believe the locals.

The story goes that Frost flew his device 500 metres before catching on a tree and crashing in a field. A storm shortly afterward destroyed what remained of the plane. Frost did not have the financial clout to rebuild his device, and even let a patent he held on it lapse. No photographic evidence or independent verification of the feat was ever produced and Frost died poor, blind and obscure in 1935. Read More »

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Northern Ireland Assembly Elections – Should physics head the agenda?

With the Northern Ireland Assembly election approaching, political parties and candidates are busy setting out their policy stalls, with health and the economy featuring strongly in party literature, along the usual unionist/nationalist concerns. It is probably fair to say that physics is not at the top of the agenda, yet many of the issues facing NI can be tackled by supporting physics. Read More »

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Innovate UK delivery plan in 2 numbers & 3 images

Innovate UK published their 2016-17 delivery plan this week and in my view one of the key changes is perhaps best illustrated by two numbers and three images.

76

the number of pages in the 2014-15 Innovate UK delivery plan

32

the number of pages in the 2016-17 Innovate UK delivery plan

Depiction of core spend in the 2014-15 delivery plan

2014-15 innovate uk plan

in the 2015-16 delivery plan

2015-16 innovate uk

and in the 2016-17 delivery plan

2016-17 innovate Uk plan

 

The first finding of last year’s Dowling Review was that public support for the innovation system is too complex, recommending that Government, including Innovate UK, work to simplify the system where possible, and that every effort should be made to ‘hide the wiring’ from businesses and academics seeking support. If the delivery plan is anything to go by, it looks like the Innovate UK team, led by Ruth McKernan, are getting on with it.

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Anti-lobbying clause in government grants – update

The anti-lobbying clause came into effect yesterday, 6th April. There is a window for implementation: the clause can be inserted into grants from today and must be inserted into all new and renewed grants from 1st May.

The Cabinet Office announced the new clause on Friday 6th February and issued guidance to the effect that prevents all government grant recipients from using grant funds to lobby government. The guidance says that grant payments cannot be used to ‘support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties… or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action’. This has the potential to impact on the use of publicly-funded research outcomes in government policy-making.​ Read More »

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Taking a look at the latest national R&D stats

Last week saw the latest data release of the UK Gross domestic expenditure on research and development. This provides estimates of R&D in Business Enterprise, Higher Education, Government, which includes Research Councils, and Private Non-Profit organisations for 2014.

The ONS have done a good breakdown of the headline figures with some nice graphs and interactive figures – worth a look. Read More »

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Immigration – how will tier 2 changes affect the sector?

For a number of years immigration has been a feature of CaSE’s work. Immigrant scientists and engineers bring new ways of thinking to universities and businesses, help build international collaborations, and open up new global markets through their contacts and language skills. This is in addition to immigration being an essential part of meeting skill gaps in the UK labour force. Read More »

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Science and the Scottish Parliament – Cross Party Debate

Last week’s ‘Science and the New Parliament’ event ahead of May’s Holyrood elections saw speakers from each of the five main parties field questions from the scientific community in Scotland. Chaired by Professor Lesley Yellowlees of the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Chemistry, the debate proved to be a lively and good-humoured exchange where science was to the fore and party politics was very much on the back burner.

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CaSE welcomes new member the Institute of Acoustics

Institute of AcousticsThe Institute of Acoustics (IoA) is UK’s professional body for those working in acoustics, noise and vibration.  Acoustics can described formally as the science of sound, its production, transmission and effects.  Read More »

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CaSE responds to Budget 2016

CaSE warns that announcements on maths education, big data and part-time science degrees are offset by concerns that science will suffer in academies.

Commenting on today’s budget, CaSE Director, Dr Sarah Main, said:

“The Chancellor has announced a number of science investments across the country, as well as welcome support for flexible and part-time study of science and engineering. It is great to see scientific evidence being used in the development of policy, such as the new levy on sugary soft drinks. However, the move to make all schools academies is worrying and seems to be based on variable evidence at best. Evidence seems to have been thin on the ground in deciding science capital investments over the last five years, according to the NAO.

CaSE calls on the Government to ensure that all science capital investments are now strategically planned and fully funded, so that public money stands the best chance of improving lives through science. Further, the Government must ensure that the proposed anti-lobbying clause in Government grants does not apply to the use of the findings of scientific research in the development of Government policies.”

The Chancellor set out OBR concerns about low productivity growth globally and in the UK. It is shown that science and engineering are one of the few government investments that actually drive productivity upwards, delivering a rise in private sector productivity by 20p per year in perpetuity for every £1 government spends on R&D.

 Commenting on science capital investment, CaSE Director, Dr Sarah Main said:

“The ‘shiny new project’ syndrome of the last five years had its place as an emergency measure to claw back some of the 40% cut to science capital made in 2010. Science got more money, but investments were often determined by political opportunism, not scientific merit. Worse, the snowballing running costs are taken from money intended to fund research ideas, so there is less money to go round for research, to the tune of £2bn – 8% of the resource budget. It is therefore vital that the science capital facilities announced today, such as the £50 million for the Quadram Institute in East Anglia, are strategically planned and financed by BIS, including the running costs to keep them open.”

The Chancellor says that he wants to “lead the world with long-term solutions to long-term problems”. It is time for that principle to be applied by government to its science and engineering investments. The National Audit Office has been crystal clear that government’s strategy for science capital investments has been woefully inadequate. You can read CaSE’s response to the report here.

Anyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) “has not used good quality information to decide which science capital projects to invest in to optimise scientific and economic benefits” and that this had undermined the department’s “ability to prioritise and deliver value for money”.

Commenting on education, CaSE Director Sarah Main said:

“What seems to be an ideological policy on Academies could undermine the good work that has been done encouraging more young people to study science subjects. We could see a situation in five years time where there are fewer qualified teachers with science expertise teaching science subjects, and fewer schools offering the option to teach biology, chemistry and physics to the age of 16. Worse still, the Chancellor’s initiative to extend study of maths to 18 could be completely ignored as the Academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum.”

 The Chancellor proudly announced his was a budget “for the next generation”. His ambition to convert all primary and secondary schools to Academies raises serious concerns for science education. The evidence of the benefits of academies is variable at best, and there is certainly no overwhelming case that they are beneficial. Other studies can be found here and here.

  • Academies don’t have to follow the National Curriculum so there is no requirement on them to teach biology, chemistry and physics up to the age of 16.
  • Academies are not required to have qualified science teachers, of which there is a considerable shortage. This could undermine the quality of science teaching by encouraging more teaching of sciences by people who have no qualification in those subjects.
  • National initiatives such as teaching maths to 18 (proposed in Sir Adrian Smith’s review announced by the Chancellor today) could be undermined by the absence of any requirement to teach the National Curriculum.

You can read a full Budget 2016 summary below

“As set out in Spending Review 2015, the defence and overseas aid commitments, the real-terms protections for the NHS in England, schools funding in England, the police and science will be maintained.”

Within services, output has been strong across different high-value added sectors. Scientific research and development has grown by 24.4% and architecture and engineering activities have grown by 42.5% since 2010.

Research and Innovation

  • The government will allocate at least £50 million for innovation in energy storage, demand-side response and other smart technologies over the next 5 years
  • National Mesothelioma Centre £5 million – to establish a centre of research in the fight against mesothelioma, which is directly affecting Service Veterans (paid for from banking fines)
  • Ovarian Cancer Action £300,000 – to fund research into a pioneering ovarian cancer prevention strategy (paid for by tampon tax)

Regional Devolution

Northern Powerhouse

  • The government will invest £15 million in the National Institute for Smart Data Innovation in Newcastle, subject to approved business case. This new facility will bring together industry, the public sector and universities to create the skills, ideas and resources needed to exploit the opportunities offered by Smart Data.
  • The government is launching the first stage of a competition to identify a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) to be built in the UK, and will publish an SMR delivery roadmap later this year. It will also allocate at least £30m of funding for R&D in advanced nuclear manufacturing. This will create opportunities for the North’s centres of excellence in nuclear research, such as the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Sir Henry Royce Institute.
  • Greater Manchester and East Cheshire, Sheffield City Region and Lancashire LEP will each benefit from a science and innovation audit. These will help each of these regions to map their research and innovation strengths and to identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.

Midlands

  • The Midlands will benefit from a science and innovation audit, to identify the region’s strengths in research and innovation.
  • To support local businesses and build on the area’s strengths in space science and research, a new Enterprise Zone will be created across Loughborough and Leicester, subject to business case approval.
  • The government will invest £14 million in STEAMhouse, subject to business case. This is a creative innovation centre in Digbeth, Birmingham, bringing together arts and culture with science, technology, engineering and maths to drive innovation.
  • The government is providing a grant of up to £16 million to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury.
  • Aerospace R&D funding – The government is awarding over £16 million, matched by industry, to companies and research organisations in the Midlands to support aerospace R&D. This includes £7 million to help Rolls-Royce develop new high-temperature alloys in Derby.

East Anglia

  • The Government will contribute £50 million to the Quadram Institute. The Institute will develop solutions to a range of global challenges in human health, food and disease.

South West

  • South West England will benefit from a science and innovation audit to map the area’s research strengths and identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.
  • The government will distribute £14.5 million in grants to extend ultrafast broadband coverage in the South West – £4.5 million more than the £10 million allocated at the Spending Review. As part of its assessment of how the UK can become a world leader in 5G, the National Infrastructure Commission will use the South West as a case study.

Wales

  • South East Wales will benefit from a science and innovation audit to map the area’s research strengths and identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.
  • Compound Semiconductor Catapult – The government will invest £50 million up to 2020-21 to establish a new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Wales.

Scotland

  • Edinburgh and the Lothians will also benefit from a science and innovation audit, to map the area’s research strengths in data-driven innovation and identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.

Future audits in other areas will be announced later this year.

Infrastructure and Digital

  • Deliver a 5G strategy in 2017, based on an assessment by the National Infrastructure Commission of how the UK can become a world leader in 5G. This review will include a case study of the south-west of England
  • Establish a panel of leading experts, chaired by Kathryn Parsons, to shape the £20 million Institute for Coding competition
  • Proposals for unlocking growth, housing and jobs in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor – the commission will report on the strategic infrastructure priorities needed to generate further growth and maximise the potential of this corridor.
  • To enable the Office for National Statistics to develop world-leading analytical and digital capabilities in economic measurement, the government will invest over £10m in a new hub for data science and a centre for excellence in economic measurement in line with Professor Sir Charles Bean’s recommendations. The new hub for data science will maximise the public value of existing and new data sets – so called ‘big data’ from public and private sources – using cutting-edge techniques to allow the Office for National Statistics to produce more innovative, accurate and timely statistics.
  • Electromagnetic spectrum is a valuable and scarce resource. Budget 2016 announces a new government commitment that 750MHz of valuable public sector spectrum in bands under 10GHz will be made available by 2022, of which 500MHz will be made available by 2020. This builds on government’s previous 2010 commitment, and will deliver wider economic benefits by generating capital receipts and by supporting innovation in digital communications services and the development of new technologies.

Tax Changes

  • Corporation tax: R&D tax credits – The government will end Vaccine Research Relief when its State aid approval runs out on 31 March 2017. (Finance Bill 2016)
  • Corporation tax: R&D tax credits – The government will amend legislation for the SME R&D tax credit scheme to ensure that it continues to work as intended after the previous large company scheme ends on 31 March 2016. (Finance Bill 2016)
  • Patent Box – Compliance with new international rules – The government will modify the operation of the Patent Box to comply with a new set of international rules created 106 Budget 2016 by the OECD, making the lower tax rate dependant on, and proportional to, the extent of research and development expenditure incurred by the company claiming the relief. This will come into effect on 1 July 2016. (Finance Bill 2016)
  • VAT refunds for shared services – As announced at Autumn Statement 2014, the government will legislate to enable named non-departmental and similar bodies to claim a refund of the VAT they incur as part of a shared service arrangement used to support their non business activities, to encourage public bodies to share back-office services, where this results in efficiencies of scale.

Education and Skills

5-19 education

  • Driving forward the radical devolution of power to school leaders, expecting all schools to become academies by 2020, or to have an academy order in place to convert by 2022.
  • To ask Professor Sir Adrian Smith to review the case for how to improve the study of maths from 16 to 18, to ensure the future workforce is skilled and competitive, including looking at the case and feasibility for more or all students continuing to study maths to 18, in the longer-term. The review will report during 2016

FE/HE Education

This Budget announces that, for the first time, direct government support will be available to adults wishing to study at any qualification level, from basic skills right the way up to PhD. During this parliament, loans will be introduced for level 3 to level 6 training in further education, part-time second degrees in STEM, and postgraduate taught master’s courses.

  • From 2018-19, loans of up to £25,000 will be available to any English student without a Research Council living allowance who can win a place for doctoral study at a UK university. They will be added to any outstanding master’s loan and repaid on the same terms, but with the intention of setting a repayment rate of 9% for doctoral loans and a combined 9% repayment rate if people take out a doctoral and master’s loan. The government will launch a technical consultation on the detail.
  • Those who take out only a master’s loan will still repay at 6%, as announced at Autumn Statement 2015. The government will also extend the eligibility of master’s loans to include three-year part-time courses with no full-time equivalent.
  • Lifetime learning – The government will review gaps in support for lifetime learning, including for flexible and part-time study, and bring together information about the wages of graduates of different courses and financial support for further and higher education to ensure people can make informed decisions.
  • The government will continue to free up student number controls for alternative providers predominantly offering degree level courses for the 2017-18 academic year. The best providers can also grow their student places further through the performance pool.

Apprenticeships

  • As announced at Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015, the government will introduce the apprenticeship levy in April 2017. It will be set at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s paybill and will be paid through PAYE. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. This means the levy will only be paid on any paybill in excess of £3 million. (Finance Bill 2016) The government will apply a 10% top-up to monthly funds entering apprenticeship levy payers’ digital accounts in England from April 2017.

Museums

  • The government’s creative sector tax reliefs have been highly successful at supporting growth, investment and innovation in industries that employ 1.8 million people. To encourage museums and galleries to develop creative new exhibitions and display their collections across the country, the government will introduce a new tax relief from 1 April 2017. This will be available for the costs of developing temporary or touring exhibitions and will follow a consultation on its design over summer 2016.
  • The government will also broaden the eligibility criteria for the VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries, with new guidance to allow a wider range of free museums to access the support.
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Budget briefing 2016

The Chancellor is due to deliver his second budget of this Parliament tomorrow. Here, we take a look at some of what we’ve learnt from the Spending Review and the recent BIS allocations as well as some of the questions that remain outstanding. Read More »

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​​NAO takes BIS to task over capital awards for science facilities

The National Audit Office (NAO) last week published a report on BIS’s capital investments in science projects. Read More »

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Standing out from the IT crowd: How do we make Britain a world leader in digital skills?

CaSE and University Alliance organised a roundtable discussion to inform the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and its inquiry into digital skills. This is an area of growing concern for a number of our member organisations and so this roundtable provided an opportunity for the Committee to hear directly from experts across the digital skills landscape including those involved in school education, informal learning, teacher training, higher education and employers. Read More »

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Recent Round-Up

CaSE has published its February 2016 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

  • CaSE has published a new report, calling on the Government to improve its immigration policies to maintain the UK’s position as a leading global hub of science and engineering.

Read More »

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CaSE welcomes Welsh Government’s reversal over HE budget cuts

CaSE has today welcomed the Welsh Government’s reversal over plans to cut the Higher Education budget.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCEW) was facing cuts of £42m, around a third of its budget. However, in today’s draft budget debate in the Welsh Assembly, the Finance Minister Jane Hutt confirmed HEFCW will now have to find £11m worth of savings. Read More »

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Maintaining the UK as a global hub for science and engineering

Ahead of the election, it was clear that immigration would be a hot topic this Parliament, and one that certainly impacts on UK science and engineering. Therefore, following the election CaSE set about exploring the issues surrounding immigration in the context of science and engineering, from skills shortages to the attitudes of the public. We also examined how the Government’s immigration policies are affecting this sector, making recommendations for how they may be refined to support the Government’s aim of rebalancing the economy with a greater emphasis on science and innovation. Read More »

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