The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered the final Spring Budget statement today, announcing funding for research and development, and for skills to help supply our science and innovation sector with the workforce that it needs to deliver the government’s ambitious Industrial Strategy.
National Productivity Infrastructure Fund
The budget confirmed the allocation of £160 million from the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund (NPIF) – originally promised in December’s Autumn Statement – which will go towards fellowships to support researchers working in areas that align to the Industrial Strategy.
Our President, Professor Sir John Holman comments: "Funding that supports the breadth of science from fundamental, curiosity-driven research through to strategic and applied research will enable the delivery of new technologies and economic growth across the UK."
£90 million from the NPIF will be used to fund 1,000 new PhD places, the majority of which will be in STEM subjects and some of which will be used to strengthen industry-academia collaborations. Our recent Open for Business report highlighted the role of PhD studentships with opportunities for connections with industry as an important mechanism by which PhD students develop technical and employability skills.
The budget statement also confirmed £100 million of funding over the next four years from existing streams and the NPIF to attract the best and brightest minds to the UK.
Professor Holman continues: "Science is a human activity that depends on the free exchange of ideas, and this is a welcome sign of the government’s commitment to keeping UK science open to international exchange and collaboration. However, alongside investment, researchers from outside the UK need clarity on the future arrangements that will allow them to live and work in the UK."
The Chancellor also announced £500 million of funding for technical training, with the launch of "T-levels", 15 standardised technical qualification routes, that will increase the number of hours of training for students by over 50%, and require all students to take part in an industry work placement.
Professor Holman adds: "As a professional body we are supportive of the proposed technical routes as we recognise the need to create a high quality, simplified vocational education system that is valued by employers and learners alike. T-levels will stand or fall on their quality, and it is critical that this very welcome additional funding is used wisely to underpin their quality and so win parity with the academic pathway, bringing diversity to the workplace."