UK risks moving backwards in science amid government turmoil, say industry leaders
The government’s pledge to make the UK a science superpower by 2030 is in “disarray”, after the minister responsible resigned earlier this month.
Science minister George Freeman exited his position on 7 July, amid a rebellion against prime minister Boris Johnson.
Andrew Catchpole, chief scientific officer at London-listed Open Orphan, which ran tests on Covid-19 for the government, told City A.M. that there is now “a bigger risk taking a step backwards than taking a step forward, which is what the government had pledged to do.”
The science lead said the promise to the industry was “slightly in disarray” after Freeman’s departure, adding that the next minister must find funding replacements to EU scheme British firms were accessing before Brexit.
The process to getting discoveries converted into products is “missing” in the UK, Catchpole added, which he has also urged the new minister to fix.
CEO of Paragraf, a maker of graphene semiconductors, Simon Thomas, also told City A.M. that “without enhanced support for our innovators at an industrial scale, we risk lagging behind, destabilising and losing supply chains critical to securing our future technological needs.”
“The UK can become a commercial superpower built on science but needs to support the companies that will power it now,” he continued.
Founder and CEO of London-based Satellite Vu, Anthony Baker, added: “It is understandable given current events that the government’s attention is focused on short-term issues, however, the seat of national office is responsible for ensuring the long-term safety and security of the nation.
“Establishing the UK as a “science superpower” is a no-brainer for any party, as it ensures we stay ahead of the curve and are well placed strategically.
“The UK has a long history of scientific innovation. We look forward to the next science minister continuing to foster opportunities for innovation, research and development, across communities and sectors; as well as remembering that the biggest threat to our generation is rising global temperatures which will only exacerbate the current inequalities, energy crisis and supply chain issues.”