Science and Public Policy
Science can improve lives, underpin livelihoods and jobs, and drive economic growth. Securing a positive future for UK research and innovation is a key goal.
Our current world-leading science base rests on the foundation of historic continuous investment. Here we set out a selection of our activities aimed at showing why continued support for UK science has never been more crucial.
Science and public policy news
31 May 2017
We've launched a new General Election 2017 web page, offering an overview of the science and education pledges in each of the major parties' manifestos, correspondence we've sent to candidates and party leaders, and blog posts of interest.
28 April 2017
Ahead of the General Election on 8th June 2017, we sent a letter to all Members of Parliament who are planning to stand for re-election, highlighting the importance of science.
18 October 2016
We have put together a briefing ahead of the Autumn Statement, which will detail the Government's plans for the UK economy and public finance, based on forecasts from the Office of Budget Responsibility; it will accompany the Government's Budget Statement on Wednesday 23rd November 2016.
10 August 2016
We have put together a briefing collating ministerial appointments and their responsibilities across the Government departments. For more information please see the Office for Life Sciences and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy websites.
19 April 2016
We have put together a briefing highlighting the references to science in the HM Treasury analysis: the long term economic impact of EU membership and the alternatives, published by HM Government on 18th April 2016.
The value of life science
Science drives investment and growth
For every £1 spent by the Government on research and development (R&D), private sector R&D output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the UK knowledge base (CaSE, 2014).
UK research is cited in 10.9% of all patent applications worldwide (Elsevier for BIS, 2013).
If Government made a one-off increase in public spending on R&D of £450m (5% of its £9bn total R&D spend), market sector output would rise by £90m per year, every year (Haskel et al. 2014).
Life science improves lives
One eighth of the world’s most popular prescription medicines were developed in the UK (ABPI, 2014).Investing in urban green spaces has the potential to provide benefit in physical and mental health costs of £2.1 billion alone, regardless of other benefits. (Natural capital Committee (2014): Investing in Natural Capital)
Life science creates jobs
The health and life sciences industry alone employs 176,000 people and has a £51bn turnover (BIS Growth Dashboard, 2015).
Life science drives investment and growth
£1 investment in medical research returns around 40p each year to the UK (Glover et al. 2014).
Every £1 increase in public funding for medical research stimulates up to £5 of investment by the pharmaceutical industry (MRC for Wellcome Trust and AMS, 2008).
What have we achieved?
The UK punches above its weight in research outputs, achieving 15.9% of the world’s most highly cited articles with just 0.9% of the global population, and we rank 2nd in the world for the quality of our scientific research institutions (Royal Society, 2015).
In 2011, the UK attracted almost $7bn of overseas-financed R&D. This is the same as Canada, Finland, Japan, China, and Russia combined, more than either France or Germany ($4bn each) and just under half that of the USA (BIS Innovation Report, 2014).
However, UK R&D investment is slipping behind our competitors:
- The UK's Gross Expenditure on R&D was 1.7% of GDP in 2012, below the EU 28 and OECD averages (BIS Growth Dashboard, 2015).
- France, which has a similar sized economy to the UK, outstrips our research investment by nearly 40% (CBI, 2014).
- Emerging nations of the East: most notably China, are putting pressure on the UK in terms of sheer volume of research inputs and outputs (Elsevier for BIS, 2013).
The UK's world leading successes are based on a history of sustained investment. A ‘flat cash’ settlement at the last funding round (2010) resulted in an effective loss of £1bn of research funding due to inflation.
To ensure that we continue to produce exceptional scientists we must support education focusing on:
It is important to raise the professional status of teachers at all levels. All teachers must have or be working towards a teaching qualification, and be committed to engaging with professional development opportunities throughout their careers, including subject specific CPD to ensure subject knowledge is up to date.
Practical work and the development of practical skills is highly valuable and must be an integral part of all biology taught in schools and colleges, and bioscience courses at universities, funds must be available to ensure all students are able to take part in investigative work.
A period of stability is needed to allow teachers and students to adapt to the changes that have occurred across the curriculum during the reform, and evidence should be gathered on the impacts the reform has made.
To ensure there is an appropriately qualified STEM workforce, there needs to be excellent and consistent careers provision from primary through to tertiary education including vocational and academic pathways.
Maintain high standards by having suitable accountability measures for schools colleges and universities to ensure best and innovative practice. Encouraging the continued accreditation of degrees to ensure high quality experiences for students.
Download our full education priorities.
For more information, and to tell us about your experiences, contact the RSB policy team.