Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan today launched the government’s new framework to “cement” the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030.
The new plan, named the Science and Technology Framework, involves a £360 million investment in innovation. The key idea is to attract international talent to the UK while promoting the growth of tech industries such as artificial intelligence. The all-new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will head the plan.
Mr Sunak said: “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 government’s aim is to fuel innovation and scientific research at the cutting edge. Such investments, it claims, will also improve living conditions, from better healthcare to security.
The framework’s ten key actions
The government is setting out ten key actions to pursue transformational technologies and supercomputing under the scheme.
Top of the list is to identify, pursue and achieve “strategic advantage in the technologies that are most critical to achieving UK objectives”. Hazy, but we get the idea.
It also wants to attract talent from abroad by “showcasing the UK’s S&T [science and technology] strengths and ambitions”.
Further promises include more investment in R&D for economic growth and productivity, and financing startups.
One of the final proclaimed steps has more than a whiff of politics to it. The framework will leverage “post-Brexit freedoms to create world-leading pro-innovation regulation and influence global technical standards”, which some could interpret as a jab at EU red tape.
Digging into the detail
AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology industries will benefit from a £250 million investment, while up to another £50 million is pledged to spur co-investment in science from the private sector.
The statement added that “£117 million of existing funding to create hundreds of new PhDs for AI researchers and £8 million to find the next generation of AI leaders around the world to do their research in the UK”.
Science, Innovation and Technology secretary Michelle Donelan said: “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.
“Only through being world-leaders in future industries like AI and quantum will we be able to improve the lives of every Briton.”
Is £250 million enough?
The government also has plans to set up an Exascale supercomputer facility, something which could solve problems “as complex as nuclear fusion”, and a programme to provide compute capacity for AI research under the response to the Future of Compute Review.
There will also be a £10 million uplift to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, and a further £9 million to support the establishment of a quantum computing research centre by PsiQuantum in Daresbury in Cheshire.
Sir Paul Nurse, of the Francis Crick Institute, said: “Only by being a leading science nation can the UK drive a sustainable economy, increase productivity and generate societal benefits such as improved healthcare and protecting the environment.”
However, questions are raised about whether the UK government is investing enough money in tech industries. Last month, Germany launched a €1 billion investment fund in similar industries while French bank Bpifrance pledged €500 million to deeptech startups.
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