Previously the UK Government had committed to spending £22bn on R&D by 2024/24, however this was revised down in the spending review to £20bn by 2024/25. There was an announcement of additional spending on education recovery, but little in the way of how the drive to Net Zero will be supported. Amongst other areas there was a welcome commitment to funding full association to Horizon Europe.
Responding to the announcements, Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said the following.
On research & development
It is obviously disappointing that the Chancellor has moved the goalposts on the targets for investment in R&D, but we recognise we are in a challenging fiscal climate and that the new commitments do still show a real terms increase in spending.
We know that the chemical sciences can play a significant role in driving the pandemic recovery, just as they have done in responding to the pandemic itself. Every year the chemical sciences generate around £83bn towards the UK economy and we are at the forefront of tackling the big challenges facing society such as the climate emergency.
We need long-term commitments on Government investment in R&D – giving business confidence, attracting talent and private investment, and enabling chemical scientists to push the frontiers of knowledge and deliver solutions to all the challenges we face.
Today’s announcement is a start, but there’s more that can be done. We will continue to work with others in the sector to show the value that investment in R&D can bring to the UK, and continue to build the argument for prioritising R&D in future spending.
Many newly qualified science teachers have missed out on the chance to develop hands on practical skills due to the pandemic. That’s why ahead of the spending review we called on the Chancellor to invest in this to make sure no science teacher misses out on these vital learning opportunities. Alongside this, we supported calls from across the sector to increase access to high quality subject specific professional development – providing the time, space, and funding that is so vital to science educators throughout their career.
We recognise the Chancellors commitment to additional spending on education recovery, but will be continuing to call for investment in the areas we believe will help produce the skilled science workforce of the future, in particular investing in Continuing Professional Development for teachers throughout their careers.
On Net Zero
With COP26 only days away this spending review was an opportunity for the Government to show it is serious about Net Zero, at this point it is clear it could have done more. The chemical sciences play an important role in solving a range of environmental problems and can be at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency. But in order to reach solutions, the Government needs to build on the strength and talent across UK science and innovation and show leadership.