SCI CEO Sharon Todd responds to the Harrington Review.
The UK, once an economic trailblazer, is losing the race to develop new clean technologies and ultimately its potential to become a science superpower. This is evident in the lack of investment by FTSE100 firms to develop new manufacturing plants on British soil over the last 20 years, while momentum gathers elsewhere. Indeed, UK economic growth over the same period averaged 1.5% whilst the global average was more than double at 3.6%.
The market for new technologies to achieve net zero and the scope to develop new medicines is huge. Clean tech and life sciences alone could contribute up to £230 billion as well as the creation of 240,000 jobs in the UK by 2030 with the right strategy. Lord Harrington compares the UK to Ireland, the US and Singapore, yet these nations are significantly outpacing the UK in terms of growth as well as scientific innovation and manufacturing. The one thing they have in common is a comprehensive industrial strategy.
Lord Harrington’s desire to strengthen the power of the Investment Minister and Office for Investment is welcome. However, an Innovation and Science Growth Council of major science business CEOs, start-ups and universities is needed to advise the Prime Minister on the actions that need to be taken. Furthermore, more needs to be done to attract long-term, sustained investment, not just for R&D, but for the full scale-up of new product manufacturing from start-ups to large scale investments from corporations.
What’s being proposed by Lord Harrington is a step in the right direction. However, the government must go beyond these recommendations with urgency if it is truly to become a “science superpower” again.
Download SCI's Manifesto for an Industrial Science & Innovation Strategy here.