Queen discusses science and space for British Science Week
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The warning comes a week after the UK was banned from the EU’s £80billion science project until it resolves the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute. Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for science research and innovation. Now, according to reports, the Government will announce a Brexit U-turn, scrapping plans to increase research and development (R&D) spending in next week’s budget.
It came after they previously committed to boosting R&D spending to £22billion annually by 2024 to 2025.
Britain now looks set to be in a science funding disaster, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to restore Britain’s status as a “science superpower” after Brexit.
Key voices in science around the country have shamed the Government for backtracking on its science goals, and not prioritising it as a crucial industry.
Ms Onwurah exclusively told Express.co.uk: “The Prime Minister says he wants Britain to become a ‘science superpower’ but he has no plan to achieve that.”
She slammed the Government for a lack of engagement with the international community, saying that the UK needs to cooperate if it really wants to push ahead of rivals.
Ms Onwurah told Express.co.uk: “We need to work with our allies around the world to push forward in critical areas of science like superconductors and artificial intelligence, which will help us compete with countries like China.
“The Government just isn’t serious about science. We are on our fifth science minister in 28 months.
“Each one comes in launches some initiative, plan, roadmap or strategy and then leaves, and now UK science spending is in a real mess.”
Ms Onwurah also said the UK needs to be far more ambitious.
She told Express.co.uk: “1.7 percent spending [of GDP] on science, which is where we are, is near the bottom of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
“2.4 percent, which is where the Tories are trying to get to, is kind of average and it doesn’t look like we’re going to make that.
“If we’re aiming for average and we’re not even going to make that then the Government is not going to meet its commitment of becoming a science superpower.”
The Government has also been warned by industry professionals that we face disaster.
Speaking at the Science and Technology Committee, Sir Adrian Smith, Chief Executive of the Alan Turing Institute and President of the Royal Society, said: “There is going to be a signal sent at the end of the spending review.
“The nature, the tone and the content of that signal is fundamentally important for the science community.
“If we don’t have a clear signal that the funding is going to come in behind the rhetoric and the aspiration, we’re not going to get that leverage of private investment.
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“We need a clear sustainable path to the £22billion by 2024. The danger of a negative signal is potentially disastrous.”
Last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to double the UK’s spending on R&D.
But, according to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, a three-year delay to that target would see the UK lose out on more than £11billion of private R&D investment between now and 2027.
But with the UK also facing being banned from Horizon Europe, Science Minister George Freeman has claimed that Britain has a “bold plan B”.
He wrote on Twitter: “If the EU decide Northern Ireland Protocol politics stops the UK joining Horizon Europe, we have a bold Plan B!”
He was responding to British Science writer Ehsan Masood, who earlier posted: “This looks pretty big. Horizon Europe has started. How long will @beisgovuk and UK science agencies wait before they can start talks to join?
“Or go with Plan B – create a bespoke international collaboration fund?”
With funding expected to be slashed, and no shot at Horizon Europe, it looks to be a mountain to climb.
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