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Science and Innovation

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2016

This Government are strongly committed to science and innovation. We protected the science budget at the spending review in 2015. In the last autumn statement, a few days ago, we committed to spending a further £2 billion a year by the end of this Parliament. The creation of UK Research and Innovation, through the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, will increase the value and impact of our investments in science and innovation in the years ahead. [Official Report, 16 December 2016, Vol. 618, c. 7-8MC.]

I thank the Minister for that answer. It has certainly been a good time for science and innovation in Britain. It has also been a good year for the UK space sector, with Major Tim Peake’s historic visit to the international space station and a new spaceport here in the UK. It certainly strikes me that the next big challenge will be the successful delivery of the ExoMars programme, particularly given some of the rumours that have been going around. Will the Minister update the House on any progress made at the European Space Agency summit recently?

Yes, I am happy to provide a brief update. My hon. Friend is an aficionado of space policy and former chair of the parliamentary space committee, so he will be delighted to know that we had an excellent outcome at the European Space Agency’s Council of Ministers. We committed a further €1.44 billion, which has secured the future of the ExoMars programme, among many other things.

I do not want to ruin the Minister’s Christmas celebrations, which are imminent, but if he looks at the deplorable investment in research and development—the figures that came out only this week—does he not see that he needs to wake up and smell the coffee? The fact of the matter is that research and innovation will be deeply damaged by leaving the European Union. He should ask the universities what they think.

I know that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the Government’s commitment to research and development, which was underscored in the autumn statement with a further £2 billion by the end of this Parliament—perhaps the biggest single increase in R and D expenditure by any Government in the memory of anyone in this Parliament.

Innovate UK plays a key role in promoting science and technology by giving grants to entrepreneurs. Will the Minister continue to support it as new fourth industrial revolution businesses come forward to seek new funding to develop the next generation of science and technology businesses?

Yes, I am happy to provide that assurance. Innovate UK, our innovation agency, will be at the heart of our industrial strategy, and the autumn statement will provide it with the resources it needs to continue to do its job of supporting small businesses in innovation.

Tidal Lagoon Power’s report, “Ours to own”, anticipates that tidal lagoons could bring more than £70 billion to the UK industry. Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is key to unlocking that innovative potential, which has great opportunities for Cardiff and the north Wales coast, as well. I appreciate that the Minister will have concerns about costs to customers, but will he commit to weighing up all aspects of the energy trilemma in his response to the Hendry report?

We are looking very carefully at the report and will be coming forward with our response in due course.

Chemical and pharmaceutical businesses are an important feature of the northern powerhouse and emerging enterprises in the sector are often rooted in university research labs. What support and funding can the UK Government commit to encourage continued research collaboration across Europe—and indeed the rest of the world—to increase our innovative business base post-Brexit?

We support international collaboration in science and research in Europe, and indeed around the world, and will continue to do so.

20. The Government talk about promoting science and innovation, but this Government pulled the plug on funding for carbon capture and storage. How much of the additional £4.7 billion R and D money announced in the autumn statement will be allocated for carbon capture and storage? (907838)

We will consult the sector and the science community very carefully as part of our development of the industrial strategy, in a discussion paper that we will launch in the weeks to come.

The Catalyst science discovery centre in my constituency does an excellent job of promoting careers in science and engineering for young people. Will the Minister come and visit it? It struggles to keep going financially, but it does an absolutely unbelievably good job.

I commend the good work going on in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and look forward to an opportunity to visit that centre as and when it arises.