The Chancellor’s recognition of our world-leading science community and intention to introduce measures to support it are obviously welcome, specifically regarding visa reforms to allow innovative companies to continue to attract talented scientists from around the world. We will advocate for our community to play its part in the announced consultations affecting the R&D community.
While recognising the importance of the intention to continue to provide additional COVID support, the government must not forget non-COVID research. The chemical sciences community is a huge contributor to tackling all health issues, from COVID to cancer and dementia, as well as playing a crucial role in the fight against climate change. It is paramount that Government explains how it will protect the domestic science budget and clearly sets out its pathway to delivering its commitment to increase R and D spend to 2.4%.
Chemistry in economic recovery
We welcome the government’s intention to invest in high technology start-ups. R&D intensive SMEs in the chemical sciences make a significant contribution to the challenges we all face. Support for these organisations to scale up has real potential to contribute to recovery through essential economic and societal impact.
Overall, today’s announcement was light on specifics regarding how the government intends to use the strength of the wider scientific sector to build back better. Treasury have published their plan for growth alongside the budget today, so we will hold the government to account on supporting a sector that generates an average of £83bn annually for the UK economy and is playing a key role in the fight against COVID.
While a lot of discussion in the run-up to today’s announcement has been on additional funding for pupil catch-up to address lost learning, particularly of the most disadvantaged learners, it feels like a missed opportunity that the Chancellor did not present a framework for the holistic plan that is so needed in supporting students and new teachers, in the medium and longer term.
Government must also ensure the continued and long-term sustainability of high-quality training in key STEM areas such as the chemical sciences, in view of the increased financial constraints experienced by providers due to the pandemic.