CaSE response to Liberal Democrat science policy review

The following is CaSE’s submission to the Liberal Democrat science policy review, dated 20th February 2012. You can access a PDF version of the submission here.

 

Dear Julian,

Thank you for your letter of 31st January 2012 inviting CaSE to contribute to your update of Liberal Democrat science policy. I have enclosed some of our reflections on the current state of UK science policy in the three keys areas you identified – money, people, and science in policy as well as recommendations which we hope your party will be able to implement in Government and for your next manifesto. I hope they are of use to you.

I would begin by stressing the importance of science and engineering to the Liberal Democrat policy development process. It is CaSE’s belief that, particularly in an age where the UK cannot rely on natural resources or cheap labour, we must develop our knowledge-led economy. However we currently trail behind our competitors according to some important metrics.

Only 1.8% of the UK’s GDP in 2008 was spent on research and development (R&D). This compares to 2.1% for France, 2.7% for Germany, and 2.8% for the USA[1].

The OECD’s 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)[2] showed the UK’s school science attainment to behind those in countries such as Finland, Germany, and Japan, while our maths scores were below the OECD average. Against this background, the age profile of the STEM working population means that 70% of the 514,000 new science and technology professionals needed by 2017 will be replacements for those leaving the workforce[3].

All parties must take action to improve the state of science and engineering in the UK if we are to enjoy a prosperous and sustainable future. I hope this brief document will assist you in drafting your new science and engineering policies, and we would be delighted to discuss the recommendations with you in person.

Yours sincerely,

Imran Khan
Director
Campaign for Science and Engineering

Contents

The Science Budget – paragraphs 1 to 10
Other sources of investment – paragraphs 11 to 15
Increasing investment – paragraphs 16 to 24
Education – paragraphs 25 to 41
Diversity – paragraphs 42 to 48
Immigration – paragraphs 49 to 53
Science and Engineering in
Government and Parliament – paragraphs 54 to 61

The Science Budget

1.       Government support for science and engineering can be split into three broad areas: the Science Budget, departmental spending, and innovation support. In this section we will focus on the first of these.

 

2.       The ‘Science Budget’ typically refers to the funding set aside by BIS for peer-reviewed research awarded by the Research Councils and Funding Councils (e.g. HEFCE)[4]. It includes some other expenditure (such as funding for the UK Space Agency and the Royal Society), and its precise definition changes under different governments. Under the current definition it comprises of £4.6bn per annum. There is a convention that, once set, the Science Budget is ‘ring-fenced’ – that is, the funding is not available for other policy priorities for the duration of the Spending Review period.

 

3.       Science and engineering research is a long-term enterprise, and requires sustained support over a period of many years. Along with the absolute levels of investment[5], the ring-fence gives confidence that the UK is a ‘safe bet’ for individuals looking to invest their time and talent, and for companies looking to invest their resources. The science ring-fence should be maintained.

 

4.       Although the ring-fence provides an extremely valuable element of mid-term security, the inherent short-term nature of political cycles still presents a barrier to genuinely long-term planning. In an ideal world research funding would be set out for longer time scales than the intervals between elections or spending reviews, and the 10-Year Science and Innovation Framework[6] was a widely-lauded attempt by Lord Sainsbury to address this issue. However, fresh attempts to set science and engineering funding on long-term timescales, particularly in the current political climate, would probably require two elements commonly found in other examples of political settlements which last longer than Parliamentary cycles, as discussed below.

 

5.       First, the long-term investment would need to be focused on large-scale capital spending, as such initiatives are more difficult to reverse based on political whims (cf. major defence procurement, transport infrastructure, the Large Hadron Collider, the Olympics, etc). Second, it would benefit from cross-party consensus in advance of the project’s commencement (cf. the Northern Ireland peace process, the Olympics). The Liberal Democrats should play a role in forging cross-party consensus on long-term science and engineering funding priorities.

 

6.       Until SR2010 the major elements of the Science Budget were the resource (‘day to day’ spending) and capital allocations (‘one off’ spending) to the Research Councils. In SR2010 this was changed such that capital spending is no longer seen as part of the Science Budget – although the resource allocation to HEFCE is now included. This allowed the Government to slash capital funding by almost a half[7] while still claiming it had ‘frozen the Science Budget’, and also suggests that indicative funds set aside for capital investment are not guaranteed.

7.       In many areas of public spending capital investment be viewed as a luxury that can be indulged in for years of plenty but safely postponed in times of austerity. However, in science and engineering capital investment is critical for progress – the pace of technological change means that equipment has to be regularly replaced. ‘Capital’ can refer not only to the construction of new facilities, but also the purchase of relatively small but vital equipment such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines and electron microscopes. In science and engineering, the practical distinction between capital and resource spending is blurred, making the financial distinction problematic.

8.       Future Spending Reviews should take this into account by including both resource and capital allocations within their definition of the ‘Science Budget’. Not only might this help to ensure that UK research facilities keep pace with those of our international competitors, but it also presents a more realistic view of state support for science and engineering research.

 

9.       The current allocation mechanism whereby researchers obtain funding from both Funding Councils (via ‘Quality Related’ or ‘QR’ research funding) and Research Councils (via competitively-won grants) is known as the Dual Support system. Although the system is counter-intuitive at first, and there are some calls for it to be amended, the general consensus is that it provides a stable and diverse way for institutions to meet the on-going costs of research while also obtaining project-based funding. The Dual Support system should be maintained unless a compelling case for reform is made.

10.   The main criterion by which Research Councils and Funding Councils fund work is research excellence, rather than particular near-term policy objectives. This is consistent with the ‘Haldane Principle’[8] – although no formal definition exists, it refers to the understanding that Government is too far removed from research to be able to set priorities and that the most efficient way to get value for taxpayer money is by allowing researchers to judge which projects are most deserving of state support, regardless of their ‘practical’ implications. Experience has shown that the most esoteric basic research can have radical and transformative implications for society and the economy[9]. The Liberal Democrats should restate a commitment to the Haldane Principle and the value of fundamental research.

Other sources of investment

 

11.   Other than UK government funding, the three main sources of research funding in the UK are European, charitable, and industrial. We discuss each of these.

12.   Like the UK’s Research Councils, the European Research Council funds research based on quality. The UK receives by far and away the highest number of grants of any EU member state[10] by virtue of our ability to attract the world’s top researchers to our leading institutions.

13.   Medical research charities invest approximately £1bn on research in the UK every year, over a third of the total public spend on medical research each year[11].

14.   Industry invests over £16bn[12] in UK research and development every year. Although this is significant and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and in 2007 R&D provided a £1.7bn surplus to the economy[13] against a backdrop of an overall £37.7bn current account deficit, we perform poorly compared to our international competitors. Only 1.8% of our overall GDP is invested in R&D compared to over 2.5% for Germany, the USA, Japan, and South Korea.

15.   Each of these three sources of investment – European, charitable, and industrial – are attracted by pre-existing excellence. This means that the most important levers for attracting extra investment are to continue investing public funds in world-class research and skills. For instance, our share of European funding is high partly because many researchers come to the UK in order to spend their research grants, while industry and charity invest because the UK is one of the best places in the world to interface with existing research and access skilled scientists and engineers. There are further levers which are specific to particular sources of funding, some of which we discuss in the next section.

Increasing investment

 

16.   One of the main levers to increase charitable investment is via the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF)[14], which has existed since 2004. The CRSF allows research institutions to obtain funding to cover the full economic cost (FEC) of charitably funded research, as charities themselves often only pay for the research itself and not any associated overheads. The CRSF therefore maximises the impact of charitable investment and allows the charities to focus on funding world-class science. The CRSF should be maintained.

17.   One of the ways the Government supports innovation in industry is through the Technology Strategy Board which has a core budget of £317 million in 2011/12[15].  This budget is spread thinly across a wide program of activity including funding competitions, supporting knowledge transfer partnerships and networks, Smart awards, Catapult Centres, and the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).  An independent analysis has shown the TSB provides a good return on investment, e.g. its collaborative R&D projects (completed by the end of 2009) estimated a gross value added of £6.71 per £1invested[16].  Funding for the Technology Strategy Board should be increased to widen the impact of its activities.

18.   Once established, the Green Investment Bank will provide gap finance and long-term patient capital to allow innovative companies to attract private finance.  This sort of funding plays an important part in the commercialisation of research and is currently lacking in the UK.  However, a key stumbling block in its development is the reluctance of the Government to place it in the public sector and on the balance sheet as any borrowing it undertakes would appear to run counter to the Government’s desire to reduce the deficit.  The ability of the bank to both borrow and lend is crucial if it is to operate commercially and attract private sector investors, rather than simply acting as a relatively small un-leveraged fund[17]. The current budget of £100 million in the first instance followed by an additional £100 million next year is likely to be insufficient.  The Green Investment Bank should be given a temporary and extraordinary exclusion from the strictures of the Government’s fiscal controls and its funding level increased.

19.   The UK does not have a recent culture of creating inducement prizes.  For instance, the new Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering rewards past achievements.  This is despite the fact that inducement prizes may be more effective use of public funds in stimulating innovation.  This has certainly been the case for the Ansari X Prize in the US which offered a prize of $10 million for the first non government organisation to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space.  This led to approximately $100 million in R&D investment, and laid the basis for the commercialisation of civilian space flights[18].  The Government should increase the current prize fund and develop new inducement prizes.

20.   The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) aims to improve the success of small R&D-based businesses in obtaining contracts from government bodies and has the potential to be a powerful tool for government departments in procurement.  Although it was based on the US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme, the size of the contracts awarded are much smaller.  The maximum size of contracts covered by the supply2gov database has been £100,000, compared with a typical size of $850,000 under the SBIR[19].  The level of funding available should be increased, focused on firms that can prove they will spend on innovation, and a target set for the proportion of government R&D contracts per annum going to SMEs.

21.   For the commercialisation of research, a scientific workforce which understands the needs of industry/business is a clear advantage.  In addition, the attractiveness of a team which holds both research excellence and industrial experience to venture capitalists and angel investors is well known.  At present, the Research Excellence Framework[20] (REF) incentivises the creation of the opposite, discouraging universities from hiring staff with backgrounds in industry, due to gaps in (or an absence of) publication records.  The Government should ensure that universities are not financially discouraged from hiring staff with backgrounds in industry, due to gaps in publications records.

22.   The Government can promote collaboration between academia and industry, in addition to the efficient use of equipment, by creating incentives through the tax system for shared use. Reducing the amount of tax payable on new equipment, on the agreement that this is made available for both industry and universities to use, would be one way to do this.  The Government should reduce the amount of tax payable on equipment to be shared by academia and industry.

23.   The EU is currently the UK’s largest export market, making up around half of our mid- to high-tech exports. However, growth in the EU is stagnant. In contrast, the average economic growth rates for BRIC nations is over 9% per annum but they currently receive just 5% of our mid- and high-tech exports[21].

24.   The UK should arguably be doing more ensure that our science and engineering base can help provide the technological solutions which will help development across the globe, and simultaneously benefit the UK economy. It is our understanding that this task is currently shared between UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the British Council, and the FCO’s Science and Innovation Network (SIN). It may be appropriate for this set-up to be reviewed to ensure that UK science and engineering companies and institutes are aware of worldwide demand as well as that from the UK and Europe.

Education

25.   All science and engineering skills policies are ultimately reliant on pupils leaving school with an understanding of, and passion for, STEM subjects. This in turn is reliant on having appropriately qualified and passionate science and maths teachers. Unfortunately there is a chronic shortage of such individuals. CaSE’s position is that secondary school science and maths teaching is best carried out by individuals with degree-level qualifications in those subjects, and that all primary schools should have at least one science and one maths specialist teacher, which we are a long way from achieving[22].

26.   New bursaries announced by the Department for Education[23] may go some way to improving the number of science and maths newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) but will not deliver the radical improvements required. Top STEM graduates will continue to be attracted by high salaries in other professions, and the Government must do more to make teaching a financially rewarding profession.

27.   Part of the problem is that no Government-sanctioned definition or rigorous data collection of ‘specialist teachers’ currently exists, which hampers analysis and policy formulation[24]. The Government should work with the sector to definitively map specialist teaching provision in primary and secondary schools, as well as further education.

28.   As well as addressing supply, more can also be done to increase proximal demand for science and maths specialist teachers. For instance, CaSE has long called for universal provision of ‘triple science’ at GCSE level[25] (i.e. offering biology, chemistry, and physics to pupils, without making them compulsory), which has been backed by industry[26]. This would be unachievable in the first instance, as we lack the necessary number of specialist teachers. However, as a stepping stone, the Government should reward schools which a) possess an appropriate roster of specialist teachers and b) offer all three sciences at GCSE level. This could be done in partnership with the sector via a ‘Secondary Science Quality Mark’, or other kite-marking scheme.

29.   The Department for Education has stipulated that pupils can take either two or three sciences at GCSE to obtain the new English Baccalaureate. While we are pleased that the importance of science and maths has been recognised in the EBacc, we are concerned that the schools which were previously incentivised to offer triple science (due to the old Science Specialist Schools scheme) are now only incentivised to offer ‘double science’.

30.   The Department for Education has also freed Academies and Free Schools from obligations to teach science and maths according to the National Curriculum. While we hope that most schools will use this freedom well, we remain concerned that it will lead to some offering a less comprehensive education in science and maths. And while we applaud the Department for Education’s planned reforms to the National Curriculum to make it more relevant and fit-for-purpose, we are left confused that the Department intends for fewer and fewer schools to be bound by it.

31.   One of the problems of this approach has been illustrated by the recent ‘Teach Evolution, not Creationism’ campaign[27], which CaSE participated in. The campaign successfully highlighted how there was nothing in legislation or regulation which would have prevented Academies and Free Schools teaching non-scientific ideas as if they were science.  We applauded the Secretary of State’s action in confirming that no creationist schools would be awarded state funding, but believe that this type of ad-hoc intervention would be less necessary if all schools were bound by a clear and appropriate National Curriculum. We recommend that the model license agreement between the Secretary of State and Free Schools/Academies be amended to show reference to the National Curriculum, with respect to science and maths.

32.   One issue which CaSE is interested in exploring is the potential loosening of the link between qualifications and skills. We continue to hear anecdotes from HE teaching professionals that first-year undergraduates do not have the skills expected of them, particularly with regard to maths and practical skills, which necessitates remedial teaching as part of degree courses. We also hear from STEM employers that graduates with good degrees from reputable universities still lack certain practical and numeracy skills. It is not clear that there is currently any Government body or agency with a responsibility for making sure the overall output of UK STEM education is broadly matching the needs of industry, academia, and society. The Government should convene a strategy group to examine this issue.

33.   Thus far, reforms to English Higher Education fees seem to be good news for science and engineering, with applicants in STEM subjects noticeably up according to HEFCE’s latest figures. However, we have concerns that the new funding model may be unsustainable, as outlined in an opinion piece for Research Fortnight[28].

34.   Under the outgoing funding regime, lab-based subjects received 1.7 times the base level of funding from HEFCE, on the understanding that they cost universities more to teach. Under the new regime, lab-based subjects will receive a £1,500 subsidy on top of fee income. For an institution charging £9,000 (and therefore receiving, in total, £10,500) this equates to a 1.17 multiplier, meaning that universities may have less financial incentive to offer STEM courses than previously.

35.   Added to this is the new ‘core and margin’ model for Higher Education, whereby institutions charging more than £7,500 per year will see an 8% year-on-year reduction in their quota of students who have not obtained AAB grades at A-level (or equivalent). This will increase the financial pressure on such institutions, and potentially make it more difficult for them to expand STEM provision too.

36.   Lastly, a HEFCE consultation revealed that it is the Government’s desire to see the extra places created by the 8% levy focused on expanding provision in Further Education institutions[29]. Unfortunately, as degree-level STEM provision often requires a large capital investment, it is difficult to see how the FE sector will be able to effectively provide quality STEM education.

37.   We are pleased that, following concern from us and others, HEFCE have decided to exempt SIVS (which include many science and engineering subjects) from the new levy[30]. However, this stop-gap policy illustrates how little thought has been given to the long-term sustainability of funding science and engineering Higher Education. We recommend that HEFCE look seriously at increasing the effective subsidy for STEM in Higher Education.

38.   STEM education rightly focuses on the methods and concepts associated with science and engineering subjects. However there is an argument to say that it is important that we train students with more transferable skills, to not only encourage the exploitation of and engagement with science and engineering by society and the economy, but also to allow individuals leaving the research sector to make the most of their skill set.

39.   For instance, UCL Advances runs a programme which equips students with entrepreneurial and business skills. In contrast, many STEM students will go through their entire degree without being made aware of the business opportunities available through science and engineering. Similarly, although half of science and engineering doctorates leave the STEM sector immediately[31], a common complaint from those who remain is that less than 1% will reach a professorial position[32] but little stability is offered for those who do not[33]. A debate is needed on the current provision of non-core skills in education.

40.   There has been an understandable focus on provision of undergraduate education since the 2010 General Election. However, this has been to the almost total exclusion of debate on postgraduate education. There is currently no policy framework for postgraduate financial support (other than institution-specific grant and bursary support), which compares poorly with the separate non-commercial maintenance and fee loans available to undergraduates.

41.   Not only does this severely limit the social diversity of individuals who can participate in postgraduate education, it could also create a skills shortage in particular sectors which rely on individuals with the relevant skills[34] (e.g. the nuclear industry). The Government should introduce fee and maintenance support for postgraduate education.

Diversity

 

42.   The proportion of the scientific and engineering workforce made up by women is still a cause for concern, despite considerable efforts made to reverse the trend. For instance, only 6.9% of engineering professionals are women[35], only one in seven academic physicists are women[36], and out of its 2011 cohort of 44 new Fellows the Royal Society elected only four women[37].

43.   The Athena SWAN Charter has provided a framework for tackling the underrepresentation of women in SET by creating an equitable working culture within university departments. They were established in 2005 and currently have just under 50% of all eligible universities signed up[38].  An increase in the number of women in senior posts and engaged in decision making has been linked to participation in the Charter and is detailed in their 2011 Impact Report. There is clearly scope to expand this scheme – the Chief Medical Officer recently outlined her intention that all medical schools who wish to apply for NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Units funding need to have achieved an Athena SWAN Charter for women in science Silver Award. The Government should support the expansion of the Athena SWAN Charter.

44.   Although the diversity of women in science and engineering has been a high-profile issue, socio-economic diversity within our sector has received less attention. CaSE will shortly be publishing a report assessing socio-economic diversity within different STEM subjects in higher education. It shows that although some science and engineering fields perform well, others – particularly maths, physics, and engineering – recruit far fewer students from lower socio-economic backgrounds than the higher education average. We will ensure your office is sent a copy of this report.

45.   One of the factors contributing to a lack of socio-economic diversity amongst some STEM subjects may be the differential representation of independent schools and maintained schools amongst science and maths A-level students. For instance, independent schools account for just 13% of all A-levels taken, but provide 29% of further maths, 18% of maths, 18% of chemistry, 19% of physics, and 15% of biology A-level students. In contrast, Comprehensive schools account for 37% of all A-levels taken, but only 28% of further maths and 34% of chemistry entries, for example[39].

46.   CaSE advocates a ‘STEM Diversity Bursary’ to help overcome some of these issues[40], modelled on the Texan ‘Ten Per Cent’ plan. Schools which send a low proportion of students on to Higher Education would be selected for inclusion in the scheme, with high-performing pupils in those schools being awarded bursaries to study STEM subjects at university. Such a scheme would not only add to the science and engineering workforce, but would also raise the aspirations and attainment of pupils who miss out on the bursary due to the way the scheme would operate at the school level, rather than post-A-level.

47.   CaSE has also raised concerns that compared to other areas of diversity policy within science and engineering, the status of disabled persons in the sector has received little attention. We called for the creation of a STEM Disability Committee which is now being led by the Institute of Physics, and believe its first task should be the creation of a website which highlights best practice, case studies, and resources available to disabled scientists and engineers.

48.   CaSE published a report, ‘Delivering Diversity’[41], in 2008 which sets out further recommendations on how to improve diversity within science and engineering.

Immigration

 

49.   The free movement of ideas and people plays a critical role in science and engineering. Part of the reason for the UK’s global pre-eminence in these fields is our current and historical ability to attract the world’s most talented minds. Of the 13 Nobel Prizes awarded to the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB) or its predecessors/constituents, only five went to British researchers[42]. According to HESA, over one in ten UK academics come from outside the EU, and they not only form an important part of our academic and commercial R&D base, but also help train the next generation of British scientists and engineers.

50.   With support from CaSE and others in the sector, the Home Office is working towards regulations which will reduce overall immigration numbers but not harm the science and engineering sectors. After a dramatic overhaul in policy, what is needed now is a period of stability. A major worry for the sector is that the UK now has the image of being ‘closed for business’ – this is partly due to vehement protests from the sector, and partly due to tough rhetoric from politicians. This image may discourage more immigrants than the new regulations themselves, and it is vital that both Government and scientific bodies can come together to highlight the UK’s continuing desire to be a global science and engineering hub. It is also important to have a period of relative policy consistency after 18 months of turbulence. There are also outstanding policy concerns.

51.   The new ‘Exceptional Talent’ route in Tier 1 was launched with bold ambitions to make clear to the world’s top and emerging talent that it is straightforward to come to the UK. Unfortunately, the length of time taken to process an application means it is not ‘fast-track’, and we are concerned that it remains a little-known route. Further, the cost of applying is a non-refundable £800 per person, with a further £800 per family member. In other words, it would cost a scientist £2,400 to apply for an Exceptional Talent visa for themselves, a partner, and two children, regardless of whether they were successful or not. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that applications for this route have been so low. We recommend that the cost of the Exceptional Talent visa is reduced dramatically, and that Government and the sector work together to raise the profile of the route both inside and the UK and abroad.

52.   The reforms to the Points Based System under Tier 2 should improve access for scientists and engineers. In response to pressure from CaSE and others, the Home Office is prioritising applicants for positions requiring PhD-level qualifications and others on the Shortage Occupations List. This is a welcome step which CaSE has applauded. It remains important that Government makes clear that scientists and engineers are valued by the UK and are prioritised in the application process.

53.   The reforms to student visas, particularly the Post-Study Work route, are particularly concerning. By reducing the scope for foreign graduates to seek employment in the UK, the Government is damaging the competiveness of our Higher Education system. International students are worth at least £6.8bn every year to the UK through fees and living expenditure along, even before one considers the benefits to UK businesses of being able to access some of the world’s best talent. This is at a time when our competitors, such as Australia[43], are deliberately loosening visa restrictions in order to make their Higher Education system more attractive. The Government should reverse its policy on Post-Study Work, giving students more flexibility to use their skills to contribute to the UK’s economy.

Science and Engineering in Government and Parliament

 

54.   The proportion of MPs with a direct background in science and engineering is extremely low, with only one having an academic research career and a few others having been involved in industrial R&D. This is compared to 72 solicitors and barristers having been elected in 2005[44]. This disparity means that organisations like the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) must play a prominent role. POST should play a pro-active role in providing briefing materials and events ahead of relevant Parliamentary debates and motions, as well as a rapid-reaction role with respect to current events. POST should also provide training to Parliamentary staff.

55.   Science and engineering advice in Government is led by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA), and in individual departments by departmental Chief Scientific Advisers (DCSAs). A 2011 study by CaSE into the role of DCSAs showed that many departments lack some basic characteristics could improve their use of science advice. For instance, a number of DCSAs do not have seats on their departmental management boards, do not have control of their own R&D budgets, or have been appointed from within the civil service rather than from an academic or other expert role[45]. The GCSA should be supported in consolidating the network of DCSAs, and raising the profile of DCSAs within their host departments.

56.   As mentioned in paragraph 1, as well as the core ‘Science Budget’, the Government also spends significant amounts of public money on science and engineering via departmental research budgets. The two biggest-spending departments, Defence and Health, collectively spend over £3bn a year on R&D.

57.   A House of Lords Science & Technology Committee report[46] found that “within the Government there is no overview of total public spending on research and development across key policy sectors, or discussion of national research priorities”, and further that “There is often a tension between the short-term focus of a Government, and especially of a particular Minister, and the long-term nature of much research. That tension is increased when budgets are under pressure, and can make departmental research and development budgets particularly vulnerable at a time of reductions in expenditure”, with departments having differing and inconsistent definitions of what constitutes their ‘research budget’.

58.   In contrast to the ‘curiosity led’ ethos of the research funded by the Science Budget, departmental spending is much more mission- and policy-oriented. It therefore also forms an important part of the UK’s technological adaptation capability, for instance in responding to emergencies and natural disasters. Although departmental R&D spending accomplishes an enormous amount for government, it is not clear that the current departmental R&D spending regime is the best possible way of procuring R&D, supporting the UK’s R&D base, or meeting policy objectives. The current system should be reviewed.

59.   The classic example of directed Government spending helping to meet policy objectives but also supporting scientific and economic priorities is the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US. For instance, as part of its efforts to ensure the US had strategic global lead in the emerging field of computer science, DARPA assumed the expenses of academics seeking to create prototypes of new computer chip designs[47]. This funding rapidly increased the pool of participants creating faster and better microchips in the 1970s, and helped lead to the birth of what we now know as ‘Silicon Valley’.

60.   Many of the suggestions and questions we have posed in this brief document would benefit from further study. In many ways the current system of research funding, and our current set of innovation policies, have evolved rather than been designed. This may be no bad thing, as acceptance by the science and engineering communities are an important requirement of any set of science policies. However there are complementary approaches to the problems we face, including dedicated academic study.

61.   The UK is lucky to have established centres examining innovation and science policies, for example the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex. However, unlike in the USA where they have a Government-led ‘Science of Science and Innovation Policy’ (SciSIP) scheme, we have no comparable state-led initiative in the UK[48]. Given the importance of a world-leading science and engineering base to the UK’s long-term prosperity, it may be time to consider instituting such a programme to help answer some of the questions which face all political parties.


[1] SET Statistics – Science, engineering, and technology indicators. Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 2011.

[2]PISA 2009 Database, OECD 2011.

[3]Wilson, R. The demand for STEM graduates: some benchmark projections. Warwick Institute for Employment Research, 2009.

[4] Public Funding of UK Science and Engineering. CaSE, 2011. http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/files/ScienceFundingSept2011.pdf

[5] Letter to The Times, 14th June 2010. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=1646

[6] Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-14.HM Treasury, 2004

[7] Public Funding of UK Science and Engineering. CaSE, 2011. http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/files/ScienceFundingSept2011.pdf

[9] Basic science is about creating opportunities. Oscillatory Thoughts, 2012 http://blog.ketyov.com/2012/02/basic-science-is-about-creating.html

[10]European Research Council statistics http://erc.europa.eu/statistics

[11] Annual Review 2010-11. Association of Medical Research Charities, 2011

[12] SET Statistics – Science, engineering, and technology indicators. Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 2011.

[13] SET Statistics – Science, engineering, and technology indicators. Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 2009.

[14] Q&A: Charity Research Support Funds. Association of Medical Research Charities, 2009. http://www.amrc.org.uk/news-policy–debate_charity-research-support-fund_crsf:-qa

[15] Parliamentary Written Answer 54945, David Willetts MP to Gareth Thomas MP http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110512/text/110512w0003.htm#11051276000134

[16] Evaluation of the Collaborative Research and Development Programmes. PACEC for the Technology Strategy Board, 2011

[17] The Green Investment Bank. Environmental Audit Committee, 2011

[18] Kay, L. The effect of inducement prizes on innovation. R&D Management Vol 41 Issue 4, 2011.

[19] Mazzucato, M. The Entrepreneurial State. Demos, 2011

[21] All OECD figures.

[22]Main, P. A Physics Teacher in Every School. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2010. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=2565

[23] Plans to attract top science and maths teachers welcomed by campaigners. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2011 http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=5614

[24] Assessment of School Workforce Statistics Produced by the Department for Education. Science Community Representing Education, 2011. http://www.score-education.org/media/8030/swf.pdf

[25] The Triple Science ‘Entitlement’. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2008. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/documents/2009/casetriple.pdf

[26] Industry Calls for Triple Science. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2011. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=6834

[28] Khan, I. “We can’t screw this up”. Research Fortnight, Issue 373, 2011. http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1082425

[29] Teaching funding and student number controls. HEFCE, 2011. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2011/11_20/11_20.pdf

[30] Teaching funding and student number controls, frequently asked questions. HEFCE, 2011 http://www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/funding/201213/faq.htm#q6

[31] The Scientific Century. The Royal Society, 2010.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Careering out of control. Science is Vital, 2011.

[34] Nuclear Research and Development Capabilities. House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee, 2011.

[35] Women in SET; new statistics. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2011. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=4094

[36] Diversity in University Physics; statistical digest 2010. Institute of Physics, 2010. http://www.iop.org/publications/iop/2010/file_43858.pdf

[37] New Fellows 2011. The Royal Society, 2011.

[39] CaSE Reaction to A-level Results. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2011. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=6997

[40] A STEM Diversity Bursary. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2008. http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/documents/2008/STEMdiversity.pdf

[41] Delivering Diversity. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2008. http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/documents/2008/CaSE0608.pdf

[42]Response to Migration Advisory Committee consultation on the level of an annual limit on economic migration to the UK. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2010. http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/documents/2010/CaSEMigrantResponseMAC.pdf

[43] Baker, S. Has Knight arrived in time to rescue Australia’s academy? Times Higher Education, 2012. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=418755

[44] Cracknell, R. Social background of MPs. House of Commons Library, 2005. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/notes/snsg-01528.pdf

[45] Chief Scientific Advisor Scorecard. Campaign for Science and Engineering, 2011. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=7470

[46] Setting priorities for publicly funded research. House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, 2010. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldselect/ldsctech/104/10406.htm

[47] Mazzucato, M. The Entrepreneurial State. Demos, 2011

[48] Wilsdon, J. Time for a Science of Science Policy? CaSE News 69, 2012. http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=8886

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