UK moves to secure science superpower status

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has said the UK has set out its plans to become a scientific superpower with a near £500 million plan to drive innovation and investment.

Sunak launched the plans which he said would cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030, alongside a raft of new measures backed by over £370 million to boost investment in innovation, bring the world’s best talent to the UK, and seize the potential of ground-breaking new technologies like AI.

The new Science and Technology Framework is the first major piece of work from the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and will “challenge every part of government to better put the UK at the forefront of global science and technology” this decade through 10 key actions – creating a coordinated cross-government approach.

The 10 points of the new Science and Technology Framework centre on:

  • identifying, pursuing and achieving strategic advantage in the technologies that are most critical to achieving UK objectives.
  • showcasing the UK’s S&T strengths and ambitions at home and abroad to attract talent, investment and boost our global influence.
  • boosting private and public investment in research and development for economic growth and better productivity.
  • building on the UK’s already enviable talent and skills base.
  • financing innovative science and technology start-ups and companies.
  • capitalising on the UK government’s buying power to boost innovation and growth through public sector procurement.
  • shaping the global science and tech landscape through strategic international engagement, diplomacy and partnerships.
  • ensuring researchers have access to the best physical and digital infrastructure for R&D that attracts talent, investment and discoveries.
  • leveraging post-Brexit freedoms to create world-leading pro-innovation regulation and influence global technical standards.
  • creating a pro-innovation culture throughout the UK’s public sector to improve the way our public services run.

“The delivery of this new Framework will begin immediately with an initial raft of projects, worth around £500 million in new and existing funding, which will help ensure the UK has the skills and infrastructure to take a global lead in game-changing technologies,” according to a statement launching the plan.

“Trailblazing science and innovation have been in our DNA for decades. But in an increasingly competitive world, we can only stay ahead with focus, dynamism and leadership,” Sunak added. “That’s why we’re setting out 10 key actions under a bold new plan to cement our place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030 – from pursuing transformational technologies like AI and supercomputing to attracting top talent and ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed.

“The more we innovate, the more we can grow our economy, create the high-paid jobs of the future, protect our security, and improve lives across the country.”

The stamen to launch the plan added science, innovation and technology are the drivers of economic growth and productivity. More than half of the UK’s future labour productivity growth will come from adopting the best available technologies and the rest from ‘pushing the frontier’ of technology even further. Each £1 of public R&D investment leverages £2 of private R&D investment in the long run.

“Today’s announcements build on existing government efforts to support science and technology,” it added. “This includes setting up the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) to fund high-risk, high-reward R&D; investing £100 million in a pilot bringing together national and local partners in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands to accelerate their growth into major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation; and publishing the UK Digital Strategy committed to rolling out world-class digital infrastructure, unlocking the value of data to create growth, innovation and societal benefits across the UK and harnessing digital transformation to build a more inclusive, competitive and innovative digital economy.”

Science, Innovation and Technology secretary Michelle Donelan concluded: “Innovation and technology are our future. They hold the keys to everything from raising productivity and wages, to transforming healthcare, reducing energy prices and ultimately creating jobs and economic growth in the UK, providing the financial firepower allowing us to spend more on public services.

“That is why, today, we are putting the full might of the British government and our private sector partners behind our push to become a scientific and technological superpower, because only through being world-leaders in future industries like AI and quantum will we be able to improve the lives of every Briton.”