Royal Society response to Industrial Strategy

23 January 2017

The Royal Society has welcomed the Government’s Industrial Strategy published today.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said, “By placing science and innovation at the heart of our industrial strategy, the Government is clearly focused on capitalising on the UK’s strengths.  We have excellent science and innovation being done in universities, research institutes and businesses throughout the UK and by working with them, the Government can help drive productivity and improve people’s lives.” 

The Society has also welcomed the focus on skills in the green paper.

Venki Ramakrishnan said, “In order to thrive in the global economy the UK will need to be smarter.  Quality technical education, alongside traditional academic routes, is essential to ensure that people have the skills required for high-wage jobs and employers can get the highly skilled staff they need. To ensure that the skills pipeline is working, we also need to look at our schools. The Government should also ensure that all young people are learning science and maths skills as part of broader education to age 18.”

The strategy identifies a number of sectors where the UK is already strong and areas where there is great potential including clean energy - one of the strategy’s ten pillars - and robotics and artificial intelligence.

Venki Ramakrishnan added, “I am delighted to see energy storage feature prominently as this will be key to making the most of the boom in renewable energy sources. This is a real example of where industrial need can be met by research expertise. The strengthening of links between academia and industry and sharing and identifying best practice in the commercialisation of intellectual property will be essential to the success of the Industrial Strategy. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are also areas where the UK has outstanding skills which we can harness for the public good, for example delivering better and more efficient public services.”

The creation of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund provides an opportunity to harness the breadth of UK research excellence and incentivise pioneering collaborations between business and science.

Venki Ramakrishnan said, “This challenge-led approach, which we recommended in our recent cybersecurity report, has the potential to catalyse transformational research and innovation outcomes, incentivise new and sustained partnerships between public and private research organisations and deliver economic growth. It will be important to learn from the experience of our international partners, including the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme, in creating a model that will significantly benefit the UK.”

The announcement of increased investment in transport and broadband infrastructure is welcome.

Venki Ramakrishnan said, “For the benefits of economic growth to be widely dispersed geographically rather than concentrated in a few dense clusters, infrastructure investment should aim to reduce the isolation and improve the connectivity of the entire country. High speed connectivity – both through the internet and through transport – will ensure that places that are currently left behind will quickly connect up with the highest growth areas nearby.”

The Royal Society will be fully analysing the green paper and responding in due course.