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UK Science

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2017

We are committed to making the UK the global go-to nation for scientists, innovators and tech investors. That is why, as part of the industrial strategy, we have announced an increase of £4.7 billion in public research and development funds—the biggest increase in science support for 40 years.

I welcome the Government’s recent £14 million investment to develop space technologies in Leicester, including the university-led national space park. What further steps could the Minister take to encourage the space industrial cluster in the midlands?

The space industry has an important role to play in driving growth across the UK, and the Government are working closely with the sector to make that a reality. I am pleased that the Leicester and Leicestershire local enterprise partnership is grasping this opportunity. The Satellite Applications Catapult has funded a centre of excellence in the east midlands for the past three years, focused on linking industry to local and national expertise. In addition, the UK Space Agency is supporting business incubators in Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough to develop innovative space start-ups.

Page 98 of the Government’s industrial strategy talks about the importance of long-term institutions. Many of those who work in the science-based industries in Wirral and elsewhere feel that the single market is a long-term institution that has served them well. Has the Minister asked the Prime Minister to change course and keep our country in the single market?

The UK is a powerhouse of academic research, and our collaborations with institutions in Europe and around the world are an important part of that success. Through the industrial strategy, we want to continue to play to our great strengths as a science and research powerhouse, and we will continue to welcome agreements to collaborate with our European partners on major science and technology programmes in years to come.

Agri-science plays a vital part in the industrial strategy, but more could be done. Is the Minister aware of the excellent work of Harper Adams University in my constituency? It exports its excellence all over the world.

I am aware of the excellent work undertaken by that institution in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Agri-tech receives considerable support through our public investment in R and D, and will continue to do so.

The European Medicines Agency, which is based in the UK, is one reason why our pharma industry is so successful. What will happen to the agency when we crash out of the EU? What is the Science Minister doing to ensure that we have effective regulations that support our pharma industry?

The right hon. Lady should wait until we have embarked upon the negotiations for our future relationship with European funding streams. We anticipate that we will continue to collaborate closely with our European partners, so that our scientists can develop institutions such as the one she mentions to the benefit of this country for years to come.

Scientifica is a Wealden-based science and technology business that won the 2016 British Chambers of Commerce awards for business of the year and export business of the year, and I joined Scientifica members at the London Stock Exchange to open the markets yesterday. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Scientifica on championing and promoting the best of British science and research?

I am delighted to congratulate Scientifica. Companies such as that are doing brilliantly at exploiting the research that is undertaken in our science base to this country’s benefit and maximising the commercial opportunities arising from our significant public investment into R and D.

Looking beyond the two-year period to when we exit the EU, will the Minister ensure liaison with the devolved Administrations—hopefully all fully restored before then—so that excellent facilities such as the science centres in Belfast and Londonderry can be availed of and replicated right across the UK to ensure that we get the maximum advantage?

Through the creation of UK research and innovation, a UK-wide global funding and research agency, we will continue to ensure that excellent science and research are supported throughout the UK in the years to come.