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Research and Innovation Funding: Scottish Universities

Volume 693: debated on Wednesday 28 April 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the recent reduction in official development assistance funding to UK Research and Innovation on Scottish universities. (914675)

The United Kingdom is and will remain a research superpower, with research and development spending at the highest level for four decades. The Government have committed to investing nearly £15 billion in R&D in 2021-22, much of which will be used to fund the work being led by our world-class universities.

Both Aberdeen and St Andrews universities stand to lose £2.5 million each as a result of official development assistance cuts. Among the ongoing projects at risk at Aberdeen is a £1.8 million research initiative into the spread of infectious diseases between rodents and humans. Given that we have recently been reminded of the importance of long-term, well-funded research in responding to a global crisis, what steps are being taken to ensure that these cuts do not impair Scotland’s ability to respond to future crises?

The first point I would make to the hon. Gentleman is that I am always willing to discuss individual programmes with specific universities and I have done that through the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) in the case of St Andrews. The second point is that all the universities that he has listed have benefited from significant investments either directly through UK Research and Innovation or through our city and regional growth deal programmes, looking at R&D initiatives such as clean energy and sustainable farming.

It is strange, because Universities Scotland says that the ODA funding cut is unprecedented and egregious, yet the Minister stands at the Dispatch Box and says that it is okay because the universities get funding from other sources. Universities Scotland says that it amounts to a 70% cut in overseas funding for the development of projects across universities in Scotland. Can the Minister explain how these cuts are reconciled with the Conservative Government’s idea of their post-Brexit ambition to build a global Britain?

As I said in response to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), I am more than happy to discuss individual programmes with the universities concerned, but if we look at R&D investment from this Government in the round, it is significantly up, and Scottish universities are punching above their weight in securing a share of that.