The government has set out its plans to “cement the UK’s place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030”.
With an initial raft of projects worth roughly £500m in new and existing funding, the Science and Technology Framework will focus on the development of five ‘critical technologies’ – AI, engineering biology (using engineering principles in the design of biological systems), future telecommunications, semiconductors and quantum technologies (which could provide capabilities that classical computing cannot).
The plans are backed by over £370m in new government funding to boost infrastructure, investment and skills, with £250m for AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology.
Announced on 6 March by prime minister Rishi Sunak and technology secretary Michelle Donelan, the government said the framework is designed to “grow the UK economy, create high-paid jobs of the future, protect our security, and radically improve people’s lives through science, innovation and technology”.
The first major piece of work from the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the framework will challenge every part of government to deliver on 10 ‘key actions’.
“Identifying, pursuing and achieving strategic advantage in the technologies that are most critical to achieving UK objectives”
“Boosting private and public investment in research and development for economic growth and better productivity”
“Financing innovative science and technology start-ups and companies”.
Sunak said: “In an increasingly competitive world, we can only stay ahead with focus, dynamism and leadership. That’s why we’re setting out 10 key actions under a bold new plan to cement our place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030 – from pursuing transformational technologies like AI and supercomputing to attracting top talent and ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed.
“The more we innovate, the more we can grow our economy, create the high-paid jobs of the future, protect our security, and improve lives across the country.”
Donelan said: “Innovation and technology are our future. They hold the keys to everything from raising productivity and wages, to transforming healthcare, reducing energy prices and ultimately creating jobs and economic growth in the UK.”
The framework’s initial projects include:
Publication of Sir Paul Nurse’s Independent Review of the Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape, with recommendations to make the most of the UK’s research organisations
£117m of existing funding to create hundreds of new PhDs for AI researchers
A £10m increase to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, totalling £50m, to boost the UK’s next tech and science start ups
Plans to set up an exascale supercomputer facility, which the government hopes could “solve problems as complex as nuclear fusion”.
Matt Rooney, head of policy at the IMechE, said: “We welcome the publication of the Science and Technology Framework. Along with the creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), it emphasises the importance of STEM, across government and society, to the wellbeing and prosperity of the UK.
“The framework is aligned closely with the policy priorities of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and we look forward to working with DSIT to ensure that it is a success.”
The government also announced a £200,000 grant funding competition for cyber-physical infrastructure, such as robotics and digital twins, and confirmed a further extension to the UK’s Horizon Europe financial guarantees for researchers, until 30 June.