Open Access Government writes about Nusrat Ghani MP, UK Minister for Science and Investment Strategy and the plans to maximise science, research and innovation in the UK
Nusrat Ghani MP, UK Minister for Science and Investment Strategy is committed to boosting the exceptional capabilities in science, research and innovation in the UK. But how can the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge in this sector?
The UK science, innovation and business community recently came together at London’s Royal Institution and Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum to launch the Government Office for Technology Transfer (GOTT). GOTT, which is headquartered in Salford and now forms part of BEIS, has been established to unlock the value of public sector knowledge assets, estimated to be worth over £106 billion, delivering economic, social and financial outcomes for the UK economy and taxpayers.
Commenting on the GOTT launch, Minister Ghani stated that “the UK is an exceptional research, knowledge and innovation base, cementing its position as a genuine global science superpower. However, British discoveries are too often brought to market elsewhere, taking the expertise and financial benefits from UK research to foreign economies. This is why the work of the excellent new Government Office for Technology Transfer, launching today (1), will be so important.”
This new office will aim to commercialise the UK’s outstanding home-grown knowledge assets to benefit the country’s economy, society, and position as an Innovation Nation.
GOTT has already begun to work with the public sector on innovations such as a cheaper higher intensity Vacuum Ultra-Violet (VUV) light source to purify water and the use of graphene biosensors to detect different health conditions and diseases using biomarkers in the human body. Through providing both funding and expertise, GOTT will support projects such as these across government. It will also work with organisations that have a mature technology transfer capability to identify areas of synergy and best practice.
Fostering collaboration & inspiring young people to consider careers in science
Furthermore, Minister Ghani and BEIS as a whole recognise that collaboration is an enormous part of the UK’s commitment to scientific excellence. She recently travelled to Italy to meet with European Space Agency’s (ESA) Director General Josef Aschbacher, and Austrian Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility and Technology, Leonore Gewessler. This visit coincided with Minister Ghani’s unveiling of a new £15 million fund for UK businesses to revolutionise satellite communications technology. The competition will prioritise customer needs, support sustainable growth and catalyse further investment into the UK space sector, which already employs 47,000 people.
The trip was indicative of the UK’s strong commitment to the space and R&D sector both at home and across Europe. The UK’s European and global partnerships form an essential part of the government’s ambitions in the field as the UK begins to explore the possibility of bidding for the ESA presidency for 2025, continue to advocate for association to the Horizon Europe research programme, and look ahead to a busy pipeline of bilateral engagements across R&D.
Minister Ghani commented that she wants to “harness opportunities in space to grow the UK economy, create jobs and inspire young people into STEM careers.”
Following this meeting, the UK has since secured £1.84 billion investment for ESA programmes with support for the Earth Observation sector which was committed at this 2022’s European Space Agency Council of Ministers meeting, held in Paris.
Furthermore, A 72ft life-size replica of the first rocket that will launch from UK soil went on display outside the Science Museum in London in October 2022. This was a huge opportunity to showcase the UK’s collaboration efforts, while also engaging many young people in science, space and engineering.
Thousands of people visited the exhibition, led by the UK Space Agency, as part of the countdown to the first launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall. Families took part in a range of exciting, free space-themed activities and hands-on exhibitions, including a Virtual Reality experience offering the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be at Mission Control, the chance to try on a real astronaut suit and handle a real meteorite.
Minister Ghani officially opened the event, stating: “By establishing the UK as the leading European base to launch small satellites, we can build on our existing strengths in space manufacturing to create new jobs, grow the economy and attract significant investment into our growing space sector.”
Extending the Horizon Europe Guarantee Scheme
Earlier in 2022, the government also announced an extension to the financial support provided to Horizon Europe applicants, which protects funding for UK researchers, businesses and innovators. The guarantee was in place to cover all Horizon Europe calls that closed on or before 31st December 2022, with the majority of grant signature dates expected before the end of August 2023. This extension will protect and support the UK sector during the ongoing delays while government continues to encourage the EU to formalise UK association.
It is hugely important to guarantee funding and support successful applicants to continue their vital work in research and innovation in the UK so that the country can continue important international collaborations without delay and ensure the UK research community has a strong offer of both interim and long-term funding. (2)