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Research and Development Sector

Volume 729: debated on Wednesday 15 March 2023

Backed by our commitment to increasing public expenditure on research and development to £20 billion by 2024-25, we have launched our plan to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030, fostering the right conditions for industry, innovation and world-leading research.

The threat posed by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank posed a huge challenge to science and tech businesses in Oxfordshire. Can the Minister update the House on what she has been doing to help those companies, so that they no longer have to look into the abyss?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the futures of so many companies, and thousands of UK jobs, were at stake. My Department worked tirelessly with the Treasury to facilitate a solution. In doing so, we have protected our life sciences and tech sectors, which not only drive economic growth across the country but deliver life-saving products.

Research and development is particularly resource intensive and in need of raising capital, so what are the Government doing to help tech and life science companies raise money on the London markets, which has been few and far between recently?

We are committed to making the UK the most attractive place for innovation and businesses to start and grow. The Treasury has made significant reforms to improve London as a listing destination, and we continue to engage with sectors to secure the most innovative companies in the UK stock exchange.

Weston Park Cancer Centre is one of only four specialist cancer facilities in the country and is at the forefront of groundbreaking research. Investment is critical to its ongoing success in cancer research. I recently met a Health Minister to discuss opportunities to invest in Weston Park. Will the Secretary of State look at what can be done to invest in that incredibly important technological facility?

The Government are putting their money where their mouth is. We are determined to ensure that we are a science and tech superpower by 2030. I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss his own constituency in detail.

The Secretary of State is aware of the global centre of rail excellence being developed in my Neath constituency, which will become the UK’s first net zero rail testing facility, a shared campus for rail innovation, research and development, testing and verification for mainline passenger and freight railways, developing next-generation solutions for the rail sector. The UK Government have pledged £30 million for the GCRE, of which £20 million has been received for the construction phase. Will the Secretary of State reconfirm her Government’s commitment to deliver the remaining £10 million for research and development?

I am unsure as to that exact question, but this Government are investing a great deal—£20 billion by 2024-25. We are determined to ensure that we become a science and tech superpower. This Department has already hit the ground running, produced a science and tech framework, and announced £370 million of additional funding. I am happy to meet the hon. Member to discuss in detail exactly the point that she was trying to raise.

Last week, Stephen Phipson, head of Make UK, said that Horizon had

“always been one of those areas of the EU budget where the UK gets more out than it puts in”.

While the Secretary of State dithers about whether association is value for money, researchers are leaving the UK for better opportunities abroad, where they can develop rich collaborations and enjoy freedom of movement. The issue needs urgent action, so when will we have a decision on whether the UK will associate to Horizon?

We have not changed our position regarding Horizon and association was in the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement. We welcome the EU’s recent openness to the discussion, after two years of delay, and I discussed the matter directly with the EU ambassador yesterday.