Science, innovation and technology takes top seat at Cabinet table

Innovation has been placed at the heart of the Government’s agenda and given a dedicated seat at the Cabinet table, the newly appointed Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said.

Visiting a leading medical research centre in Harwell, Oxford, the Secretary of State set out her plans for stronger growth, better jobs and bold discoveries to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Long called for by the tech and science sectors, the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has been created to deliver on the clear mission set by the Prime Minister, to ensure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world and a science and technology superpower.

The move will bring together the five technologies of tomorrow – quantum, AI, engineering biology, semiconductors, future telecoms – along with life sciences and green technologies, into one single department for the first time.

On the visit to the Rosalind Franklin Institute, the Technology Secretary set out how the new department will draw on the innovative power of science and technology to kickstart rapid economic growth, create high-skilled jobs as well as improving the public sector and the lives of British people.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

Science and technology has the potential to change our world beyond recognition and improve all our lives.

“A brand new and dedicated department for Science, Innovation and Technology is key to the Government’s plan to grow the economy – generating better, well paid jobs and driving improvements in health, education and transportation.

The new department has received a warm welcome from the science, tech and business communities and it’s now my job to use the department to build on our world leading strengths in AI, life sciences, quantum, fintech, and green technology to deliver tangible and positive change across the UK.”

The Rosalind Franklin Institute, based at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, is at the forefront of efforts to develop new technologies to address major health research challenges. It opened in September 2021, following a £103m government investment in 2018.

As part of this visit, the Secretary of State announced £40m additional funding for the institute, provided through UK Research and Innovation’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The technologies under development at the Franklin will be used to address major challenges in health – such as spotting the early signs of degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have already made great progress in some areas, including identifying antibodies from llamas which could be used as a treatment for COVID-19.

In the future, using real patient tissue samples will enable disease dynamics, drug effects and diagnostics to be carried out with atomic level insight.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive, Russell Group, said: “The decision to create a dedicated department for science, innovation and technology recognises the value of our sector and its importance to growing the economy, creating jobs, and solving major challenges such as energy security, inequalities and net zero.

 “We hope the new Secretary of State will take the opportunity provided by the Spring Budget to back the development of more innovation clusters to create jobs and investment across the UK, built around the talent and research of our world-leading universities.

“Global research collaboration will also be high on their list of priorities and we hope they will continue to push for the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and work with the sector to ensure the funding set aside for this or alternative schemes delivers the biggest impact for the UK.”