Liz Truss has been announced as the new UK prime minister after winning against Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership contest.
Dr Beth Thompson, Associate Director of Policy, Wellcome, said:
“Congratulations to the new prime minister on their recent appointment. We agree that the UK can be a science superpower. The UK is already home to leading scientific research and innovation – that’s been clear for all to see in the pivotal role played in the Covid-19 vaccine and treatment development. Yet, we cannot now be complacent.
“The world faces urgent health threats that reach across borders. We are already facing an increasingly challenging global environment with infectious diseases escalating, the impact of the climate crisis on our health, as well the rising number of people who experience mental health problems every single day.
“We urge the prime minister to seize this moment and invest in science and innovation to help solve these issues. To be successful, they will need to be clear on their priorities and provide the long-term funding required to make these a reality – including following through on commitments to increase investment in the UK’s world-leading research and development sector.
“But they must also recognise that the UK cannot do it alone. There is a vital need for global collaboration; UK-based scientists and institutions need to collaborate with their counterparts around the world, and the UK needs to be an attractive and exciting place to work. Horizon Europe is a prime example – the new government must secure the closest possible involvement to safeguard research collaboration.
“Securing the UK’s global role in science won’t happen by accident. This work should be overseen by a science minister who can work across government to agree priorities and implement a plan.
“The prime minister must prioritise bold commitments to turn ‘science superpower’ from catchphrase into reality, putting science and innovation at the heart of their agenda. If they do this, they can help everyone live a healthier life.”
Tom Grinyer, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Physics (IOP), said:
“As well as addressing the real and immediate challenges facing so many, to ensure the country’s long-term health and prosperity it is crucial that the PM prioritises and shows leadership in science as a solution to the energy crisis from day one. This crisis shows the need for new technologies to provide a range of energy sources and storage methods.
“Long term investment in science research is essential to ensure new technologies emerge to meet the challenges we face. If the new Government wants to maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in research, development and innovation (RDI) it needs not only a dramatic increase in public research and development (R&D) spending, but also a dedicated Science Minister to work with the scientific community and unlock the transformative potential of our world class science and innovation base. The Institute of Physics urges the new Prime Minister to appoint a science minister to lead this work today.
“This needs to be underpinned by concerted action to grapple with longstanding shortages of specialist physics teachers that deprive our young people from all backgrounds of access to a high-quality physics education that ensures a pipeline of qualified students and science workforce.”
Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:
“Congratulations to Liz Truss on becoming leader of the Conservative Party and the UK’s next Prime Minister.
“Ms Truss and her supporters have spoken about the need to drive economic growth across the UK. Backing a stable, upward trajectory for R&D investment is the way to do that – driving growth across the economy, improving lives and livelihoods and meeting the critical challenges we face, such as energy security and net zero. Reaffirming commitment to long-term investment targets will assure businesses of the security of their own investment plans and, importantly, attract the investors and innovators we need to the UK.
“Now is the time to stay the course and reap the rewards of increased investment in R&D. I urge Ms Truss to build on the current foundations and take the UK’s ambitions higher, looking towards a target of investing 3% of GDP into R&D – a level that would secure the UK’s place on the world stage.”
Sir Jeremy Farrar FMedSci FRS, Director, Wellcome, said:
“Congratulations to Liz Truss on their recent appointment as Prime Minister. There is a long history of scientific research in the UK, with breakthroughs that have driven life changing health advances.
“Tackling the urgent health threats that we face today will depend on continuing to foster scientific innovation and collaboration. Escalating infectious diseases, the grave health impacts of the climate crisis, and the mental health illnesses holding billions of people back. These are challenges which affect us all and demand global action alongside clear strategic priorities and long-term international co-operation and investment.
“During these turbulent times, the UK’s continued leadership on these issues is vital. We look forward to continuing to work with the Prime Minister to ensure science delivers hope for the future.”
Sir Adrian Smith PRS, President, Royal Society, said:
“Any bold vision of a thriving UK must have science and innovation at its heart as they are key to driving growth, increasing productivity, and improving lives. That means that the new Prime Minister must prioritise the investment, skills and support for international collaboration that will allow science and innovation to thrive.
“We are good at science – world leading in fact, as we saw in the pandemic – but for too long we have taken it for granted. It has been a ‘nice to have’ rather than being at the centre of what the UK is about. We have the base to build on, now is the time for a radical rethink that puts science and innovation at the core of our economy.
“Science is global, and the impact of Brexit has increasingly made UK science look insular. The last government was fully committed to the UK associating to EU science funding schemes, but after nearly two years we are still waiting. While we wait, confidence in and around UK science is ebbing away and we are losing talent. It would be a real win for the new PM to get the science part of Brexit done now.
“Recent governments have recognised the importance of science and committed to increased funding but, even with those promised increases, we will still be investing a smaller share of GDP than other leading nations. The new PM must look at whether that is good enough. They also need to find ways to boost domestic and international private investment in R&D in the UK.
“As the global economy has become increasingly focused on science, technology and innovation, our education system has become increasingly anachronistic. We need to provide people with the skills they need for a modern workplace and for our modern lives. To deliver that means replacing narrow A-Levels with a broader baccalaureate style system and placing more value on vocational and technical education.”
Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, President, Academy of Medical Sciences, said:
“As Liz Truss takes office as the new Prime Minister, she faces international and domestic challenges. Central to many of these challenges is the UK’s ability to protect the health of the nation, to grow the economy and to have access to the best evidence to inform decisions. I hope Ms Truss will remember the critical role that health research plays in each of these.
“When it comes to research, you reap what you sow. As well as developing lifesaving treatments and improving care for patients, medical research is responsible for economic returns to the country to the tune of 25p per pound investment, each year, forever.
“Ms Truss takes up the mantle of delivering existing pledges for the UK to become a ‘Science and Technology Superpower’ and invest £22 billion in R&D by 2026/27. I was delighted to see her support for the life sciences during her campaign, but she must now stand by these commitments and be the Prime Minister to deliver them.
“Medical research requires a coherent, long-term approach, backed by investment, which inspires talented researchers to build their careers in the UK and supports international collaboration. For the UK to build on the benefits of research, the new Prime Minister must swiftly drive forward this agenda, creating a healthier future while delivering for the economy. I look forward to working alongside Ms Truss and her Government as they do so.”
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