Brexit factor lacking in Industrial Strategy, say MPs

Pumping £2bn into R&D starting point: Science and Tech Committee

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The government has failed to account for the Brexit factor in its long awaited Industrial Strategy, according to a report by MPs today.

The Science and Technology Committee welcomed the government’s Autumn Statement pledge of an additional £2bn a year of science and research funding.

However, it said that should be viewed as an "downpayment" towards meeting the target of the UK spending 3 per cent of GDP on R&D – one which the committee has repeatedly pushed for.

The current proportion is 1.7 per cent, below the average of 2.4 per cent and "substantially below the leading backers of innovation — countries like South Korea, Israel, Japan, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, which contribute over 3 per cent of their GDP to this area."

It noted that EU funding through the Horizon 2020 programme provided €1.2bn (£1bn) to UK based organisations’ research projects.

Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the committee, said: “While it is too soon to know whether Brexit will end up bringing less or more inward science investment to the UK in the long-term, the government should be ready to make good any net shortfall in the short-term with further funding for science.”

Metcalfe said Brexit will present opportunities and risks for our economy and for the science and innovation that supports it.

He said: "A regulatory regime that is well-crafted and tuned to our post-Brexit international research and trading relationships — both with Europe and globally — will be essential.

"The government has an opportunity to do more to strengthen the links between the industrial strategy and Brexit as the Exit negotiations now get under way. That will be vitally important for keeping the Government’s industrial strategy relevant and hooked up to the opportunities presented by the evolving Brexit negotiations.”

The Committee also called for the government to complement its raft of initiatives to increase STEM skills, including the new further education "T" level, by scaling-up existing local STEM-promoting initiatives.

Further education reforms aimed at raising STEM skills should also reflect not just what employers need but also evidence on what initiatives are most effective in increasing and sustaining young people's interest in science and what really influences their study subject choices, it said. ®


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