People in chemical sciences: key to recovery
We set out what this investment should look like in our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review (which recently became the one-year Review announced today). We stressed the importance of supporting the future chemistry workforce and their teachers: by investing in chemistry teachers’ subject-specific professional development, enabling chemistry departments in Higher Education to develop knowledge and skills for future innovation and increasing the level of quality related funding.
The announcement of £2.2 billion extra for the core schools’ budget is welcome, but in a year when teacher training has been severely disrupted – especially for those in practical subjects like chemistry – it is disappointing that additional investment has not been set aside to support new teachers as they start their careers.
Our recent Chemistry Workforce report shows that the highly-skilled chemistry workforce contributes £83 billion per year to the UK economy and its members are key to a green economic recovery. We are making the case for supporting employers and providers to deliver technical skills and enabling innovators, particularly those in SMEs, to continue making medical advances, developing green materials and better processes. We will continue to make the case to BEIS and the DfE to invest in current and future chemists, as they work on the detail of implementing today's headline figures.
Investing in discovery and prosperity
Investment in research and development enables prosperity and discovery – our Science Horizons and Digital Futures reports showed the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in digital age molecular and materials innovation. The announcement of a significant increase in investment for research and development is a step in the right direction, however we would like to see a clear plan to reach the pledge of £22bn by 2024/25. We continue to make the case for the UK to associate fully to Horizon Europe to preserve and enhance international collaborations and the many reciprocal benefits they bring to both the UK and the European Union. We hope to see the UK Government and EU reach an agreement on a future relationship in the coming days and urge both sides to continue efforts here. We would have liked to see a spending commitment to cover UK association to Horizon Europe today, to preserve the international collaborations, being formed now, that in a matter of weeks, will develop rapidly.
Sustainable chemicals management
As the Brexit transition period draws to a close, we continue to influence on a sustainable UK chemicals framework. This must include a UK-wide Chemicals Standards Agency, creating a world-leading UK Science Hub for Chemicals Standards, and leading on developing chemicals standards globally. We will continue to work with DEFRA on this vision.
We will continue to work with our members, partners and Governments to enable the chemical sciences to play their part in a green economic recovery and make the case for chemistry to government departments – and to the next spending review.
For many in our community, especially those in SMEs, the coming months mark a time of great uncertainty due to twin threats of disruption in R&D from COVID-19 and the impending end of the Brexit transition period. The government’s commitments show that they can see the societal and economic benefits that science can bring, however, today’s announcements leave many unanswered questions on those threats, especially on EU exit, when certainty is most urgently needed.