Skip to main content

Grand Challenges: International Collaboration

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 20 April 2021

What diplomatic steps he is taking to encourage international collaboration to tackle the UK Government’s grand challenges. (914440)

We are at the heart of discussions about global challenges and mega-trends, including through the UK’s G7 and COP26 presidencies. On clean growth, we will harness those presidencies to advance our climate agenda in the run-up to COP26. On artificial intelligence, in September, the UK signed a declaration with the US to drive technological breakthroughs in AI. This puts the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution. On science, the UK has strong science collaboration arrangements with more than 50 countries, from the research powerhouses of the US and Europe to emerging economies.

Through my work with the Prime Minister’s taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform, we are looking at how we can make Brexit a real opportunity for the UK as a global science and innovation superpower to better integrate our aid and trade and to boost R&D investment, inward investment, exports and sustainable global development. Does the Minister agree that, to help developing nations to confront the biggest global grand challenges of sustainable agriculture and development, as set out in the Foresight report, including the challenge of nearly doubling world food production on the same land area with half as much water and energy, we could use variable tariffs to incentivise high-quality production, and UK aid to support tech transfer of UK agritech and clean tech for sustainable growth?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he does in this area. Nowadays—and when he was an excellent Minister—we provide preferential tariffs for 70 developing countries through the generalised scheme of preferences. This includes a framework covering implementation and international environment conventions. We are supporting international research partnerships and the roll-out of agritech across the poorest and most climate-vulnerable countries. This is delivering crop varieties that are more productive, nutritious and resistant to drought and pests. Our clean tech investments are enabling UK battery pioneers to develop new technologies and business models to deliver clean energy in Africa.