Government fires up R&D to cement the UK as science superpower

New plans to cement the UK as the world’s leading research and science superpower have been set out by the Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

The government says the new Research and Development Roadmap will place pursuing ground-breaking research, attracting global talent, and cutting unnecessary red tape at the forefront of its long-term plan to ensure the UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate.

£300 million will also be brought forwards to upgrade scientific infrastructure across the UK through the government’s World Class Labs funding scheme. This funding will enable research institutes and universities to make sure UK researchers have access to better lab equipment, digital resources, and to improve and maintain current research facilities.

The Roadmap will also support the government’s efforts to address global challenges from eradicating our contribution to climate change by 2050 and developing new medicines, to improving life at home by strengthening national security and improving public services.

To achieve this, the government has today committed to:

  • increasing investment in ground-breaking research, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and setting ambitious new goals for research to keep the UK ahead in cutting-edge discoveries
  • attracting, retaining and developing top talent to ensure the UK is the best place for researchers to work, offering careers at all stages that attract a diverse range of people. The government will also establish a new Office for Talent, making it easier for top global science, research and innovation talent to come to the UK
  • securing the economic and societal benefits of world-class research across the UK by setting up a new Innovation Expert Group to review and improve how the government supports research, from idea stage right through to product development
  • supporting our innovators and risk-takers by backing entrepreneurs and start-ups with the funding needed to scale up their innovations, as well as ensuring the UK is making the most of its first-class industries and technologies
  • boosting international collaboration to ensure the UK benefits from global scientific partnerships. This will create new opportunities for trade, growth and influence for the science and innovation communities and research institutions
  • aiming to maintain a close relationship with European partners by seeking to agree a fair and balanced deal for participation in EU R&D schemes. If the UK does not associate with programmes such as the EU’s research programme, Horizon Europe, the government will commit to meeting any funding shortfalls and putting in place alternative schemes to support vital UK research

The new Office for Talent is a team based in No. 10 with delivery teams across government departments. It will ensure the UK’s talent offer is stronger than ever for students, those building their careers, and those who are already world leaders in their fields, and will make it easier for those with the most talent, potential, energy and creativity to come to the UK from around the world.

The Office will begin work immediately to review the effectiveness of the current rules and ensure excellent customer service across the immigration system, so that it is simple, easy, and quick. They will also help those coming to the UK better understand the opportunities on offer and break down any barriers they might face.

The government announced, as part of the new graduate route, international students who complete a PhD from Summer 2021 can stay in the UK for 3 years after study to live and work. As previously announced, students who have successfully completed undergraduate and master’s degrees will be able to stay 2 years after study. This will make it easier for some of the best, young international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to economic growth.

In addition, when the student route opens this autumn as part of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, there will be a number of improvements which will further streamline the immigration process. These include extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch to another type of visa from within the UK. Existing students and those who start their course this autumn will benefit from these changes, once they have been introduced.

The global talent scheme will also be opened up to EU citizens which will allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without needing a job offer.

To attract the top digital and tech talent from across the UK and from overseas into government itself, a flagship innovation fellowship programme will be launched, sponsored by No. 10. Those admitted to the programme will help transform the delivery of public services by accelerating the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and approaches from industry, academia and civil society.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The UK has a strong history of turning new ideas into revolutionary technologies – from penicillin to graphene and the world wide web. Our vision builds on these incredible successes to cement Britain’s reputation as a global science superpower.

“The R&D Roadmap sets out our plan to attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time.”