Science and Technology Framework

Michelle Donelan Excerpts
Tuesday 7th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michelle Donelan Portrait The Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (Michelle Donelan)
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The creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology marks a watershed moment for science, innovation and technology in the UK. We now have a Government Department that focuses on a single mission: to make the UK a science and technology superpower. Science and technology is absolutely critical to the UK’s future prosperity and security, and to the health and wellbeing of our citizens and our environment. That is why it is a central pillar of the integrated review. Countries that embrace science and technology will be prosperous and secure, home to the innovators and technology companies of the future. Those that don’t, won’t.

My vision for DSIT starts from an extraordinary position. Last year, the UK joined only China and the US in having a technology sector worth over $1 trillion. Despite our relative size, Britain outperforms our closest competitors and we are a main challenger nation to the US and China in many areas. We have four of the world’s top 10 universities. Just eight of our university towns are home to more unicorns than the whole of France and Germany combined. However, when other countries are investing further and faster in science and tech, we must do the same. We have an incredibly unique and powerful platform from which to grow and innovate for the benefit of the British people, which is why I have said I plan to take a ruthlessly outcome-focused approach to this new Department.

I will ensure that in both the short term and the long term, our work is based on improving people’s daily lives in ways they can feel and see around them. The Government’s vision for the future is an NHS that uses artificial intelligence to find, treat and reduce illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, so we have more time with our loved ones. We should have local transport services that allow us to travel faster, safer and cleaner than our parents did. The schools of the future should be powered by the kinds of technology that unlock hidden talents in every child, no matter where they live. As the “Department for the Future”, our focus will be on how science, technology and innovation can ensure the British people live longer, safer, healthier and happier lives.

Such an important goal requires immediate action, which is why in my first few weeks as Technology Secretary I have been focused relentlessly on action and delivery. I see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to send a clear signal around the world that Britain plans to lead the way in science, innovation and technology. The key steps we have taken are as follows.

Yesterday, we published the UK science and technology framework, which sets out our goals and vision for science and technology in an enduring framework that will see us through to 2030. It has been developed in close collaboration with the UK science and technology sector, and represents a commitment to scaling our ambitions and delivering the most critical action needed to secure strategic advantage through science and technology. The framework is the strategic anchor that Government policy will deliver against, and to which the Government will hold themselves accountable. It sets out 10 things that the Government must do to sustain strategic advantage in science and technology.

First, we must identify the technologies most critical to the UK’s objectives. Secondly, we must signal the UK’s science and technology strengths and ambitions both at home and abroad to attract talent and investment and boost our global influence. Thirdly, we must boost private and public investment in research and development for economic growth and better productivity.

Fourthly, we must build on the UK’s already amazing talent and skills base. Fifthly, we must finance innovative science and technology companies. Sixthly, we must use Government procurement to stimulate innovation in key sectors and technologies. Seventhly, we must take international opportunities to shape the global science and technology landscape through strategic international engagement, diplomacy and partnerships.

Eighthly, we must ensure that science and technology objectives are supported by access to the best physical and digital infrastructure that will attract talent, investment and discoveries. Ninthly, we must leverage post-Brexit freedoms to create world-leading pro-innovation regulation and influence global technological standards. Tenthly, we must create a pro-innovation culture throughout the UK’s public sector to improve the way our public services run.

We have also taken immediate steps. The delivery of this new framework will begin immediately with an initial raft of projects worth around £500 million, of which £370 million is new money. That will ensure that the UK has the skills and infrastructure to take a global lead in game-changing technologies. That includes £250 million of investment in three truly transformational technologies to build on the UK’s leadership in AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology. That funding will help a range of industries tackle the biggest global challenges such as climate change and healthcare and will form part of our commitment to the five key technologies, which include semiconductors and future telecommunications.

We have also published Sir Paul Nurse’s “Independent Review of the UK’s Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape”, with recommendations to make the most of the UK’s research organisations, testing different science funding models to support a range of innovative institutional models, such as focused research organisations, working with industry and partners to open up new funding opportunities. Up to £50 million will spur co-investment in science from the private sector and philanthropists, to drive the discoveries of the future, subject to business cases. The Government are already in talks with Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, about additional support of up to $20 million as part of that work.

Some £117 million of existing funding will create hundreds of new PhDs for AI researchers, and £8 million will help to find the next generation of AI leaders around the world. A £50 million uplift to world-class labs funding will help research institutes and universities to improve facilities, so that UK researchers have access to the very best labs and equipment that they need to keep producing that world-class science. A £10 million uplift to the UK innovation and science seed fund, totalling £50 million, will boost the UK’s next technology and science start-ups, which could be the next Apple, Google or Tesla.

We have outlined plans to set up an Exascale supercomputer facility—the most powerful compute capability, which could solve problems as complex as nuclear fusion, as well as a programme to provide dedicated compute capacity for important AI research, as part of our initial response to the future of compute review, which was also published yesterday. Some £9 million in Government funding will support the establishment of a quantum computing research centre in Daresbury in the north-west.

On next steps, each of the 10 framework strands has a lead Department tasked with putting in place a clear action plan, to which they will be accountable during the year. Delivery against those plans will be overseen by the National Science and Technology Council, which will hold Departments to account and drive pace. Alongside the development of those ambitious plans and the framework, we have also set out our initial work under each of the 10 priorities, which will include our skills and talent base.

On priority technologies, we will develop a pro-innovation approach to regulating AI, which will be detailed in our White Paper in the coming weeks. On R&D investment, we will respond to the Tickell review of research bureaucracy, and Sir Paul Nurse’s review of the research, development and innovation landscape. We will work with industry and partners to increase inward investment by the summer recess. On financing innovative science and technology companies, we will build on the strong track record of the British Business Bank to strengthen support for the UK’s science and technology companies.

This ambitious plan will focus on getting actions out the door now, as well as a plan for the future. This Government are both reactive and, crucially, proactive when it comes to science and technology, to ensure that we can be a superpower by 2030.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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I welcome the Secretary of State to her place, and I thank her for the advance notice of her statement.

I welcome the framework. It will take pride of place on my virtual bookshelf next to the Government’s innovation strategy, the R&D road map, the science plan, numerous grand challenges, industrial strategies, sector deals and two UKRI reorganisations. We have seen nine changes of Science Minister in five years. Britain is a world-leading science nation, and we deserve a framework with a longer shelf life than a lettuce, especially given the shortage of salad items under this Government.

It is good to see the Government setting out the principles for identifying the scientific capabilities that we need to protect and grow, and the outcomes that we wish to see from science, as well as seeking to increase STEM skills in teaching and support for start-ups and spin-outs. On the eve of International Women’s Day, and as a chartered engineer, I enthusiastically welcome the ambition to diversify the science and technology workforce. Let us work together to make that ambition a reality.

I have a number of questions for the Secretary of State. How do the five critical technologies in the framework relate to the 17 sensitive areas in the National Security and Investment Act 2021, and the five key growth industries in the autumn statement? When will each critical technology have the appropriate regulatory framework that she talked about? Science-driven industries critical to our future prosperity, such as space, autonomous vehicles, batteries and steel, are not even mentioned. Labour has committed to an industrial strategy council on a statutory footing. Do Government have an industrial strategy?

The framework rightly says that procurement is key to innovation. Why, then, have the Government objected to our amendments to the Procurement Bill to ensure that procurement is not captured by cronyism? The Government committed to £22 billion of science funding by 2027. Will the Secretary of State say what the current funding commitment is now? How much of the £370 million mentioned in the framework is truly new? If it is new, how is she paying for it? The Government promised that science spend will double, but the framework talks of raising science spend outside the greater south-east by only 40%. That suggests that our regional centres of innovation will not benefit from this increased funding. Is that all she has to say about the importance of regional innovation? What of the clusters that the Science Minister talks up so much?

Start-ups and scale-ups are key to sustainable green growth, but the £10 million uplift to the seed fund mentioned here would not meet the early-stage funding requirements of one future Google. Will the Government adopt the recommendations of Labour’s start-up and scale-up review to drive innovative growth across our country?

The biggest question is what is not in the framework—Horizon Europe, the world's biggest science programme. Did the Secretary of State really think that she could get through the statement without even mentioning it? Thanks to the Tories, our brightest and best UK scientists are still having to choose between the funding that they desperately need and the country that they love. British research and British business are feeling the chilling impact of not being part of the world’s greatest scientific collaboration. Can the Secretary of State confirm that now that the Windsor framework has been agreed, Horizon association will follow? Specifically, will the Chancellor’s Budget next week include association funding?

Labour believes that innovation and science are critical to building strong and self-sufficient national and regional economies. We see a clear path from investing in scientific research to the jobs that people can raise a family on. With our ambitious national missions, Labour would stoke the innovation engine to drive high-skilled growth, access new and diverse talent pools and catalyse regions that have been left out of science investment. I fear that this framework is another wish list designed to be shelved or scrapped at the earliest convenience of a Government addicted to sticking-plaster policies. Only a Labour Government, with our long-term industrial strategy, will deliver the science sector and the jobs that our country needs.

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I thank the hon. Member for her comments, but in reality it is this Government who are here today delivering jobs and a better future for the British public. As I said in my statement, we are focusing not only on actions today, but on a strategic long-term approach to ensure that we are a science and technology superpower by 2030.

The hon. Member said that there are more technologies than the five that we have identified. Of course there are. The ones we have identified are the key strategic ones, but there is a great deal of work that my ministerial team and I are doing. On funding, we are investing £20 billion by 2024-25, as we have said on the record. The £370 million that we announced yesterday is a new spending commitment that we had not previously outlined. On geographical spread across the nation, we have made a strategic commitment to ensure that 55% of the spend is outside the south-east.

The framework that we have set out is just one part of the work that my Department is doing. Let us not forget that it was established just four weeks ago. In one month, we have not only published a comprehensive framework plan, but got on with key actions to drive the agenda forward. This Government mean business. We have worked very hard in the past few weeks to talk collaboratively with industry and with researchers.

I am not going to take the Opposition’s word about what is wrong. Let us have a look at what experts and people on the ground have to say. Professor Sir Ian Boyd, president of the Royal Society of Biology, says:

“Science and technology is already a central plank of modern life. Putting this centre-stage in government strategy is essential and welcome.”

Professor Julia Black, president of the British Academy, says:

“The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s announcements reaffirm the Government’s ambition to put the UK at the forefront of global research, development and innovation”.

I could go on all day long, because our announcement has been wholeheartedly welcomed.

The hon. Member asked about Horizon. This is an announcement about our framework—that is what is on the annunciator screen—and not about Horizon, but I will answer her question anyway. We have not changed our position on Horizon. For the past two years, we have tried to associate. It was in the original deal, and we welcome the comments from the EU. Of course, terms would have to be favourable for the UK—we have lost two years—and we would have to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. We cannot wait around for another two years, because we want to put our researchers first. That is why we have done the responsible and right thing and worked up a plan B, which stands ready should we need it, but our position on Horizon has not changed. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the EU.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology.

Greg Clark Portrait Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con)
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It is a great pleasure to welcome my right hon. Friend and her ministerial team to their positions. It has been some years since a Science Minister stood at the Dispatch Box as a Secretary of State; I hope that she and her team will have a very successful tenure. I warmly welcome the priority that the Government are giving to science and technology at one of the most exciting times for it since the first industrial revolution. My Committee looks forward to welcoming her to discuss her work and the framework.

I have a few specific questions. First, can my right hon. Friend commit that the £1.65 billion from the science budget that was returned to the Treasury last week as part of the supplementary estimates will go back to the science budget and has not been lost? Secondly, I am interested in what she says about Horizon. Will she say when the negotiations will begin? She rightly says that they cannot go on forever, but how long will she allow them to continue before plan B is enacted? Finally, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that in areas such as battery technology, which is a responsibility of her Department, of the Department for Business and Trade and of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, there is a united and coherent approach across Government so that investors know what the policy is and who to deal with?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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My ministerial team and I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend’s Committee. It was good to speak to him yesterday. As I said then, funding remains available to finalise association with EU programmes. In the event that we do not associate, UK researchers and businesses will receive at least as much as they would have through Horizon over the spending review period.

The Government have stepped in to continue to support the UK’s world-leading R&D sector. We have extended the Horizon guarantee until the end of June 2023, as we announced yesterday. The Government have provided £882 million to date via UKRI through the guarantee and they will still deliver their commitment to invest £20 billion per annum in research and development by 2024-25. That is not impacted by the £1.6 billion to which my right hon. Friend refers.

On Horizon, as I said to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), we have not changed our position. We continue to try to associate with Horizon, and we look forward to engaging in more deep and meaningful conversations with the EU on what is possible as we work out the potential options. I will keep my right hon. Friend and this House as informed as possible as plans develop.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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I welcome the creation of the new Department and welcome the Secretary of State to her position. I thank her for advance sight of her statement.

The framework should be seen very much as a starting point. I have to say that the Secretary of State’s comments on Horizon will not give the sector much assurance at the moment. That view is echoed by the Royal Society, which says:

“The extension of the funding underwrite announced today is a welcome intervention”

as a safety net,

“but it is yet another sticking plaster, when the ultimate goal needs to be speedy association”.

Sir Paul Nurse’s review also describes Horizon Europe association as essential, so we need a timeframe for when a decision on Horizon will be taken. We have been hearing from the Government for three years that their intention and hope is that there will be such an association, but we need a timeframe.

Dr Tim Bradshaw of the Russell Group has said that the £370 million of new funding falls far short of the £1.6 billion that had been earmarked for research collaborations with the European Union, so it would be useful to know how the Government can continue promoting science in the UK when they are driving down funding in comparison with what was provided before Brexit.

The framework commits to establishing

“competitive advantage in attracting international talent to the UK”,

but Royal Society analysis has shown that work and study visa fees are up to six times higher than in comparable science nations. What plans do the Government have to reduce visa fees in line with other science nations?

The Secretary of State has chosen future communications as an area of focus. In 2020, a $500 million stake was invested in OneWeb to support such communications. Can the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of the OneWeb investment in terms of future communications?

Finally, we have been asking about the semiconductor strategy for many months now. When is it likely to be published?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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On Horizon, the hon. Member seems to be rewriting history, which is slightly disappointing. We have tried for two years to associate. It was the EU, not this Government, that linked the issue with the Northern Ireland protocol. We now stand ready to continue those conversations. The £1.6 billion was earmarked for Horizon. We were not able to affiliate and associate with Horizon, which is why the money is no longer available, but we stand committed in terms of our record investment of £20 billion, which we have pledged for 2024-25.

On the conversation around attracting talent, we think it is very important that we are supporting industry and the opportunities available, so there are jobs in this country for people to come to and so they will want to forge a life here.

The semiconductor strategy will be out imminently. We have been doing a great deal of work to ensure that it comes out in exactly the right place.

Tracey Crouch Portrait Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)
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The Secretary of State will know that there are acute shortages of teachers in STEM subjects. She may well also know that we on the Science and Technology Committee looked into the lack of diversity in the STEM workforce, but there are only limited references to that in the framework. Yesterday, the Minister for Women, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), set out plans to increase the number of women working in STEM. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to see all children studying maths until the age of 18, and I know that the Education Secretary is passionate about STEM subjects at school. However, it is not entirely clear where the Secretary of State’s Department sits in all this. Will she clarify the position? Which is the lead Department when it comes to ensuring that we improve STEM uptake and, indeed, diversification in both schools and workforces?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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On the way the framework will operate, in many of the areas, there will be a lead Department, but we will be working to hold the Departments to account, while also collaborating with them. The Department for Education will lead on the education and skills element, but we will of course work closely with it, because we have a vested interest in ensuring that the framework delivers and we can meet that goal of a science and technology superpower by 2030. However, I want to reassure my hon. Friend that the examples given in the framework are intended to provide a flavour of what every Department will be doing; they are not an exhaustive list. Departments will be coming up with more policies and ideas over the coming years, but they will all have to be linked with the framework, because this is a Government who will be strategic and relentlessly focused.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State says that her ambition is to send the message around the world that the UK is a leader in science and technology, and I share that ambition, but, sadly, the Sir Paul Nurse review of research and development—published today—says that funding provided by the Government is limited, and below that of other competitive nations. In fact, the UK is 27th out of 36 OECD nations when it comes to Government funding of R&D. If the Secretary of State is serious about this ambition, as I truly hope she is—and it would be helpful if she listened to what I am saying—will she commit today to assuring the House that, by next year, the UK will be No. 1 among all the OECD nations in respect of Government funding of R&D?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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What I can do is reaffirm the commitment that by 2024-25 we will have a record level of R&D spending in this country: £20 billion. Rather than simply standing here announcing endless pots of money, we are being strategic in our spending, and working with the sector when we come up with our policies and plans.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I welcome the statement and wholeheartedly support it, but may I remind the House that science is a global endeavour? If we are to deliver on the ambitions set out in the framework, we will need to work with our partners. May I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the visa system in particular to ensure that it does not act as a barrier to attracting world-leading scientists and technicians to the UK to help us to deliver on those ambitions?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Part of the framework is about our international collaboration with partners. Of course we need to grow our own talent, a point made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), but we also need to attract talent, and to ensure that our visa system—as well as many other factors—enables that to happen. I will continue to work on that issue across Government.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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Horizon is about collaboration, not just money. May I urge the Secretary of State to impress that on the Prime Minister? She will also be aware that confidence in the life sciences sector is fragile at present, whether it be in relation to R&D tax credits, the voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access, or Horizon, and that we have fallen from fourth to 10th among the best countries in which to conduct late-place clinical trials. What is she going to do about that?

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Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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The Minister of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), has taken the lead on that, and we are working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are challenges that we need to address, and over the coming weeks and months he will see that this is a Government taking action.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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How will the Government respond to America’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which offers such a wide range of tax breaks, favourable Government contracts and favourable regulation to onshore much more science and technology, and threatens to divert investment from the UK?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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It is, of course, important for us to create a favourable economic climate for business to prosper. As for regulation, it will be at the heart of our work. We have already commissioned Sir Patrick Vallance to publish a report on the regulation of emerging technology, which will be published imminently, and we will be doing “deep dives” into how we can get the regulatory framework right in order to support innovation, technology and science that is based in the UK.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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I welcome the Secretary of State and her team. I hope she will join me in celebrating the achievements of Oxfordshire’s researchers, not just at the universities but in the great science parks: they are, I am sure, four square behind her visions. One of the big issues that they raise with me is the “attracting talent” strand, so I am glad she has raised that subject. Horizon Europe is a big part of it, but it was not just the money but the ecosystem that was important to those researchers. However, will the Secretary of State look again at the visa system, and specifically at the costs? Analysis from the Royal Society shows that the cost of obtaining a visa for researchers to come to our country is about six times higher than the cost among our competitors. Will the Secretary of State speak to the Home Office about that?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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What we really want to do is provide the research community with complete clarity and the certainty that they have not been able to have for the last two years while we have waited around trying to associate with Horizon. As I said at the outset, we want that process to be relatively swift. As for the question of visas, of course we want to attract the brightest and the best. Part of yesterday’s announcement was about how we are going not just to wait for people to want to come here, but to be proactive and to utilise our global talent network to go out and find them and to persuade them of the value of locating and working in the UK.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
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I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend and constituency neighbour to her position. Does she agree that one area of outstanding science in the United Kingdom is in the Arctic and the Antarctic? Our polar scientific research is superb, thanks to the National Environment Research Council, the British Antarctic Survey and the 78 universities with first-class polar research departments. I have not had a chance to read her framework paper, but what more can the Government do within the framework to encourage polar research, which is so superb in this country but needs more co-ordination and, of course, always needs more encouragement from the Government?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I commend my hon. Friend for all the great work that he does and has done consistently over the years. I know that he held a meeting here to dive deep into this issue again and to raise its profile. Of course the work is important geopolitically, but it is also important to addressing net zero. We work closely with partners. Our approach is global, not just internal, which is key to the framework.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I should declare an interest, in that I have a long-standing experience and love of the higher education system. I also co-chair the Higher Education Commission with Lord Norton.

I like a lot of the stuff that the Secretary of State has said today, particularly what she has said about having a much more focused Department, but I should warn her that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) is right: morale is low in the higher education sector and we need to put that right. We also need the resources of good management in universities. We must make them open to dialogue and partnership with local businesses, small businesses and big businesses. I ask the Secretary of State please to look closely at that innovation and enterprise.

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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This is at the heart of the Nurse review, which talks of the diversification of the research sector and how we can open up the opportunities that the hon. Gentleman has described. As a former higher education Minister, I know only too well the challenges that universities can face in this regard. My policy is always an open-door policy, and I work closely and in collaboration with the universities to break down some of those barriers and create those opportunities.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement The third element of her framework plan was growing private and public investment to boost productivity. Does she agree that what is crucial is not just the development of new ideas but their implementation, because that is how productivity will be boosted? Will she ensure that there is a focus throughout Government on implementation and scale-ups, given that all Departments can play a role in the delivery of progress?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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My hon. Friend is right. It is not just about the funding; it is also about the implementation, the focus and a strategic approach, which is why this Government want to lead from the front. We need to focus not just on start-ups but on scale-ups, which is one of the things that has held us back in the UK, especially in the tech sector. My Department will play a critical role in supporting the industry to tackle this.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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York has already framed its future economy, whether through Buy Yorkshire, with 4,000 more jobs for our city and region, through digital and advanced rail, which is currently providing 5,500 jobs and has the ability to grow, or through the emerging digital creative sector, which is an exciting innovation across York. However, the Government have been slow in giving that support and getting the money out of the door. We are frustrated because we want to press ahead, so how will the Secretary of State deliver for our city?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I pledge to meet the hon. Member and listen carefully to the challenges that she has experienced, so that we can address them not just in her area but in other areas.

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con)
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I welcome the joining together of these strands of Government, not least because of the broadband programme, and my right hon. Friend truly has the opportunity to be the Secretary of State for growth. That is hugely important. Does she agree that it is the UK’s leading role in the regulatory space that allows us potentially to be a world leader in the regulation of areas such as artificial intelligence, where there is not only a vital national security angle but a vital economic opportunity that we can seize at this unique moment in that technology’s history?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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Exactly. As my hon. Friend points out, this is about regulation to create innovation, and we need to get those regulatory frameworks right. We also need to look at the behaviour of the regulators themselves, at how they interact with one another and at the burden they place on researchers and businesses alike.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. Small and medium-sized tech companies provide a vital engine of growth in our economy, particularly in the Thames valley and in towns such as Reading. Can she say more about what her Department is doing to support these vital small and medium-sized businesses?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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Indeed. When we talk about our science and technology agenda, this is not just to support big tech; it is to support all businesses, including those small and medium-sized ones, which we hope to be able to support to scale up and continue to grow and create jobs. At the heart of our plans, the hon. Gentleman will see how we can support them in a range of different ways through the 10-point plan and by being strategic across Government, from our approach on skills to our approach on regulation. And let us not forget that this Department is coming forward with a number of pieces of legislation, including the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which will help to support businesses to get rid of some of that unnecessary burden, and the digital markets Bill, which is focused on freeing up some of those small businesses and unlocking opportunities for growth.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)
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I welcome the framework and also my right hon. Friend’s commitment that the Government will soon be publishing the national semiconductor strategy. Does she agree that this is a fantastic opportunity to highlight not just the leading role in the world that British companies play in semiconductor design, but the attractiveness of the UK for investment in advanced manufacturing, particularly in compound semiconductors?

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Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Our work in semiconductors is important not just for national security but for economic security, and we have some key strengths when it comes to research and development for semiconductors, and our compound semiconductor manufacturing sector. We will continue to support semiconductors and come forward with that strategy in the coming days or weeks.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (Ind)
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Research projects at Welsh universities face an immediate cliff edge with the end of European funds, which will run out at the end of the month, endangering 60 projects and 1,000 jobs. This affects the whole of the UK, but there is a specific issue in Wales due to the concentration of European funding there over the years. Can I therefore use this statement to ask the Secretary of State whether she will discuss with the Treasury the need to announce bridge funding in the Budget next week to protect these projects while the replacement funding is settled?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I am aware of this issue, as is my ministerial team, and we pledge to meet the hon. Member to discuss this in detail in the coming weeks.

Ian Liddell-Grainger Portrait Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con)
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The Secretary of State knows that we are technologically and scientifically ready for the small and medium reactors that we need to roll out across the United Kingdom. They are world beaters. Will the Secretary of State include this in all the principles that she is putting forward today, because it is absolutely vital? We need the energy and we also need to sell these reactors, because they are superb.

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. This highlights how the Department will be working hand in hand with other Departments. On this agenda, we will be working closely with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It is our Department that will be focusing on innovation and the technologies of tomorrow, but it is incumbent on us to work with the other Departments to deliver them in time to be ready for tomorrow.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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The issue with Horizon is that UK-based researchers were able to take more from the scheme than the UK Government contributed to it. The Times reports today that the Prime Minister is said to be sceptical about Horizon:

“He thinks it’s a very expensive way to fund a lot of small academic collaborations which don’t really change the world.”

Does the Secretary of State recognise that science is an international endeavour, that incremental developments in science do change the world and that the UK would be a net beneficiary of Horizon if only we could associate?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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The entire point of our announcement yesterday was that we believe that science and technology can change the world. We also believe that they can change people’s lives here in the UK, and that is why we made our announcement on the actions we are taking now and on the long-term framework, so that we can be proactive as well as reactive. As I have said on Horizon, our position has not changed.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)
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As somebody with a maths degree, I am naturally very supportive and enthusiastic about a Government Department dedicated to science, and I very much welcome the new framework to proactively position the UK as the science superpower. I can confirm that my constituency, where almost every village has a science park, will do more than almost any other constituency to try to turn that vision into a reality. We already have a thriving herd of unicorns, a vibrant community of Nobel prize winners and laboratories everywhere stacked full of researchers, a lot of whom were funded by the Horizon programme. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement that the Government want to reopen negotiations on Horizon and that they are open to that. I accept that she cannot commit to the outcome of negotiations while they are going on, and it is good that she has a plan B in her back pocket, but negotiations create uncertainty and I wonder what reassurance she can give to my formerly Horizon-funded researchers that they will not lose their funding until we get a long-term solution.

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to provide researchers and academics with that clarity and certainty. That is exactly why we yesterday extended the guarantee by another three months so that they can be confident, as we have talks with the EU, that there is a system in place.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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I welcome the Prime Minister’s creation of this Department and warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to her position as Secretary of State. I also welcome the £370 million that is being invested. In drawing up this framework, what lessons have been learned from the covid-19 pandemic and, in particular, from the success of the vaccines taskforce under Kate Bingham, whose position was, I remind the House, shamefully undermined by the Opposition?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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We have taken a great deal of learnings from the operation of the vaccines taskforce, and we have been deploying those learnings, as we can see from the life sciences missions that we have put into process. One of the key learnings relates to the work we do with industry, and also our ability to work much more quickly and to cut through red tape and regulation. My hon. Friend will see from my Department a relentless focus on cutting down that regulation, getting the regulatory framework right and cutting away some of the unnecessary bureaucracy that is holding back our nation from excelling even more.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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I welcome the Government’s new science and technology framework, but will my right hon. Friend set out how the life science vision works within it and also speak of the amazing and rewarding jobs that will come with it?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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The framework that we set up yesterday is the strategic overarching plan for how we get to be a science and technology superpower. Of course, we are working on many other strands to ensure that we can drive forward those policies to achieve those goals, including the life science vision.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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You have had some good exercise, Mr Fell.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker—last but not least.

I warmly welcome this statement, and I welcome the Secretary of State and her fantastic team to the Front Bench. This statement is great news for science, and the £370 million deposit towards turning the UK into a science superpower is welcome. My constituents will be glad to hear it, as we are trying to get the Ulverston life sciences cluster off the ground. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me and the GSK taskforce to see how it can best engage with the strategy and take it forward?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss what is happening in his constituency. I think it will improve his constituents’ lives with more jobs and better paid jobs, but it will also improve the lives of all our constituents. This is how we drive forward our economy, how we grow our economy, how we create better paid jobs, how we improve our healthcare and how we tackle climate change. My constituents are asking me for all those things, and it is this Government who are delivering this proactive, outcomes-based approach.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I thank the Secretary of State for her statement, and for responding to questions for more than three quarters of an hour.

Bills Presented

Illegal Migration Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Suella Braverman, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary Dominic Raab, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary James Cleverly, Secretary Gillian Keegan and Robert Jenrick, presented a Bill to make provision for and in connection with the removal from the United Kingdom of persons who have entered or arrived in breach of immigration control; to make provision about detention for immigration purposes; to make provision about unaccompanied children; to make provision about victims of slavery or human trafficking; to make provision about leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom; to make provision about citizenship; to make provision about the inadmissibility of certain protection and certain human rights claims relating to immigration; to make provision about the maximum number of persons entering the United Kingdom annually using safe and legal routes; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 262) with explanatory notes (Bill 262-EN).

Online Abuse (Reporting) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Christine Jardine, supported by Wera Hobhouse, Munira Wilson, Helen Morgan, Sarah Olney and Richard Foord, presented a Bill to require social media companies to publish reports setting out the action they have taken to address online abuse against women and girls, and other groups of people who share a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March, and to be printed (Bill 263).