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expert reaction to the sciencey bits of the Autumn Statement

Scientists react to Science elements of the Autumn Statement.


Prof Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) said:

“The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement focused on businesses, with science and technology a prominent theme in his plans to support an innovative economy.

“I’m encouraged by the ideas that emerged. They show Government thinking creatively about new ways to support science in the long term, such as endowments, and seeding support across the breadth of the science economy.

“The measures announced on pensions are welcome progress and are a good first step towards transforming the investment landscape for innovative companies in the UK.”


Stephanie Baxter, Head of Policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said:

“It is very welcome that the Government has recognised the importance of engineering apprenticeships to filling critical skill gaps in the UK innovation and technology sector.

“In addition to the £50m investment through the Apprenticeship Growth Sector Pilot announced in the Autumn Statement, engineering employers say they need agility within the fund for upskilling and reskilling to allow their workforce to be agile and adaptive to new technologies such as AI and Digital Twins.

“The Institution of Engineering and Technology is therefore calling on Government to allow employers to use unspent levy funding to provide short tailored courses (micro-credentials) in cutting edge technologies.

“It is also important that the Chancellor has committed to wider infrastructure investment to support the UK meet its net-zero targets. However, manufacturers in the UK are facing critical skill shortages in the face of rapid technological advancement: 21% report skill shortages in adapting to new equipment. This hinders our ability to harness digitalisation and new technologies for innovation. Therefore, government must ensure that the investment addresses these skill gaps to gain maximum benefit from the investment.”


Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said:

“The Chancellor has recognised the high potential of UK life sciences to deliver the jobs and growth the country needs. This package of support will help boost our sector’s investment in UK-based research and manufacturing.

“The £520million funding boost for manufacturing is a major step forward in delivering on our shared ambitions for long-term growth. Also welcome is the plan for a new merged R&D tax credit scheme and the move to make permanent the full expensing capital allowances model. Together, these steps will help give confidence to companies looking to make larger, long-term investments into the UK.

“Set alongside commitments in the new Voluntary Scheme agreement to improve the ecosystem for innovative medicines, as well as progress to address challenges in industry clinical trials, the UK is getting back on track to realise the Prime Minister’s vision of being a life sciences superpower.”


Prof Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says:

“Engineering harnesses the power of science and technology to benefit people and the economy, generating the jobs of the future. I am pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this in his Autumn Statement, introducing measures to support research and innovation and to help grow more spinout companies based on the world-leading work being done in UK universities. Just nine universities have hosted more than half the UKs spinouts over the last decade, so it is vital that we streamline the process and help promising new companies to scale up and grow right across the UK.

“Investment and support are essential if the government is to realise its ambition of securing strategic advantage through emerging technologies, from AI, telecoms and semiconductors to engineering biology and quantum.

“However, our strategic advantage in research can only be translated into tangible economic benefits through real products and services and I commend the Chancellor’s support for advanced manufacturing, including the development of green industry, together with targeted regional investment.

“Engineering expertise is crucial to our nation in addressing the most pressing global challenges through rigorous engineering system thinking and fostering innovation. Training future engineers is therefore vital to the economy and I am delighted to see funding to help increase the number of engineering apprentices.

“Earlier this year the government set out an ambitious science and technology framework for the UK. We are seeing some progress on this agenda but it is a long-term and wide ranging endeavour that needs sustained effort and funding over the coming years.”


Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of Engineering UK, said:

“The chancellor highlighted the importance of skills in his autumn statement, yet there was little to address widespread issues in the skills systems. We welcome the modest announcement of £50 million for engineering apprenticeships, but are concerned that this is limited to a two-year pilot to explore ways to stimulate training in these sectors and address barriers to entry in high-value standards.

“As outlined in our recent report ‘Fit for the Future’, we need large scale investment in getting more apprenticeships for young people off the ground now and to ensure that the country has the engineering and technology workforce it needs for the future. We urge the government to take a bolder approach.”


Rashik Parmar MBE, Chief Executive of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT responded to the statement saying:

“Creating the UK’s own quantum computing infrastructure is key to our future on the world stage. To get those productivity gains, quantum computing needs to be embedded across businesses and driven forward by many more highly skilled computing graduates and apprentices. 

“We need to teach quantum principles in schools and we need a new undergraduate degree for people who want to specialise in quantum computing. We also need quantum apprenticeships and retraining routes that focus on its application and implementation without the need for post-graduate degrees in mathematics and physics.

“Just like with AI, it’s critical the UK doesn’t get left behind in this revolution in computing power. Otherwise our national security, research reputation and global competitiveness will all suffer. 

“Policymakers should see quantum computing as an essential part of the computing profession and expect its specialists to follow clear standards of ethics, inclusivity and accountability – that way we can bring the public with us on the journey.”


Tom Grinyer, Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics, said: 

“The Chancellor has offered much-needed fuel to UK research and development (R&D), with incentives for universities, scientists, foreign investors, businesses and pension funds to invest in UK innovation and help secure our place in the global tech revolution. Physics-based innovation, from green technologies to breakthrough cancer treatments, depends upon this kind of government stimulus.

“But this alone will not be enough to cement our status as a science superpower and reap the benefits for our economies and communities. We must do more than catch up with other nations – ahead of the next general election, all parties must set out how we will match the top OECD nations on R&D investment.

“We must also tackle the STEM skills shortage and attract more, and more diverse, young people into subjects like physics. Apprenticeships are a key part of this, and physics-powered businesses tell us apprentices are needed now at the forefront of the new tech economy.

“The £50m new funding for apprenticeships is a welcome potential boost for engineering, physics-powered industries, and other areas that face skills shortages. We must now ensure that funding reaches all high growth and innovation sectors which are powered by physics and held back by the skills shortage.”


On the announcement in the full published Autumn Statement of a series of quantum missions:

“The new Quantum Missions are welcome statements of ambition in high-potential areas – it is now crucial that more detailed roadmaps are developed in further collaboration with the physics community, and that these are backed by new funding.”


Sharon Todd, CEO of The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), said:

“The Chancellor is right: The work is not done and there is more to do after today’s announcements. Today’s measures indicate that the Chancellor is starting to understand what is required to salvage the UK’s diminishing industry. However, he must listen to the wider science base, beyond just life sciences and clean technology. Global businesses and start-ups which innovate and make essential products, such as food and consumer products,  are investing elsewhere. The UK is no longer competitive for investment.

“We welcome the government statements to support advanced manufacturing and help start-ups to grow, scale and list in the UK. However we need a detailed and long term plan to be put in place to deliver this. Lord Harrington’s proposal for a legislative vehicle is welcome, but it is not akin to a comprehensive plan such as the US Inflation Reduction Act. That would give investors confidence for large scale, once in a generational investments. Without direct Government investment and a competitive environment for private investment, British science-based industry and jobs will continue to slough off our coastline and sail away.

“We support the new British Business Bank growth fund (LIFTS) to try and plug the current gap, but we need more venture capital and pension investment to flow into science-based businesses as well as technology businesses.

“Support for additional investment in Investment Zones is to be encouraged. But the creation of a new infrastructure for Hydrogen and renewable power needs to be considered on a national scale. The Chancellor needs the advice of leaders from a range of businesses, large and small, in a single Innovation and Science Growth Council to fully realise that green UK future.”


Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer for Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons, said:

“Progress on unlocking pension funds to invest in research-intensive companies and updates to R&D tax relief are the early Christmas presents oncology spin-outs have been hoping for. These companies play a vital role in translating our research from the lab into life-saving treatments. We want to encourage more entrepreneurship in UK life sciences and ensure those companies can scale and grow here.

“Today’s announcements by the Chancellor are a vote of confidence in the UK’s outstanding life sciences start-up community. They will create much-needed opportunities to develop new tests, medicines and advances in healthcare for cancer patients.”


Rosalind Gill, Head of Policy and Engagement at the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said:

“Becoming an innovation nation requires the UK to attract, start and scale more innovative businesses. The raft of measures to pour more capital into UK science and technology companies are hugely welcome, as is the dedication of £20 million to support university spin-outs specifically. Today’s announcements will help us move towards greater prosperity.

“We are also pleased that the Chancellor recognised Lord Harrington’s recommendations to attract foreign direct investment, with measures to make investment into the UK more attractive, but also better communicated and easier. Permanently committing to full expensing of business investment is an important move to boost levels of investment.

“However, a barrier to growth is lack of consistent focus on specific economic strengths. The UK cannot be world leading in every area of scientific advancement. Therefore, to distinguish itself from the major global trading blocks of the US, Europe and China, the UK must make, and commit to, choices about the areas where it does want to establish a world leading status. Attempts to prioritise strengths through a succession of strategies have failed to gain momentum or longevity. The UK needs a clear, long-term economic plan, genuinely shaped collectively by businesses, universities and policy makers.”


Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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