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Science and Technology Framework: taking a systems approach to UK science and technology

The framework is the first major piece of work from the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Its goal is to “cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030”. It outlines 10 key actions to support its vision, covering public and private investment, innovation, infrastructure and participation in STEM. A press release alongside the framework sets out various spending commitments.

The press release can be found here

The full framework document can be found here 


  • Under the new framework, the government will pursue strategic advantage in five critical technologies: artificial intelligence, engineering biology, quantum technologies, future telecommunications and semiconductors, with around £250 million worth of investment in the first three areas (p7)
  • Funding of up to £50 million will spur co-investment in science from the private sector and philanthropists, building on the government’s commitment to increase UK investment in R&D to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. The government has already announced £20bn spending on R&D in 2024/25 (p10)
  • Public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will be raised by at least 40 per cent as set out in the Levelling Up White Paper. £9 million in government funding will support a quantum computing research centre by PsiQuantum in Daresbury in the North-West. New Innovation Accelerators will be piloted to support UK city regions to become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation (p10)
  • £117 million of existing funding will create hundreds of new PhDs for AI researchers, through the 16 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in universities across the UK. Universities will be able to bid for funding to set up new CDTs. £8 million will also be invested to find the next generation of AI leaders around the world to do their research in the UK (press release)
  • Opportunities for participation in STEM will be expanded to ensure a more diverse range of people enter the science and technology workforce, learning from examples like AI and data science conversion courses, where £30 million has been invested to help people from underrepresented groups join the UK’s AI industry (p11)
  • The UK’s offer will be attractive to the world's best talent across all career stages, through the ‘high-skilled visa system’. UK researchers will participate in exchanges which deliver international links and establish new collaborations (p10)
  • A further extension until 30 June 2023 of the financial guarantee provided to the UK’s Horizon Europe applicants was announced by the government (press release)
  • A £10 million uplift will be made to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, totalling £50 million (press release)
  • The framework will bolster science and technology-based international partnerships. This will include delivering the £119 million International Science Partnerships Fund, expanding the UK’s network of Tech Envoys, prioritising S&T in diplomatic work, establishing a UK Technology Centre of Expertise so that tech experts can support developing countries, and developing partnerships with emerging and leading technology nations (p14)
  • There will be a £50 million uplift to World Class Labs funding to ensure researchers have access to the best physical and digital infrastructure for R&D that attracts talent, investment and discoveries (p15)
  • The government promises that “post-Brexit freedoms” will be leveraged to ensure regulation is pro-innovation, stimulates demand for science and technology and attracts investment (p16)

Implications for governance:

In her foreword to the new framework, Michelle Donelan, the science, innovation and technology secretary, points out that Britain is a main challenger nation to the US and China, has four of the world's top ten universities and that just eight UK university towns are home to more billion-dollar unicorn start-ups than the whole of France and Germany combined.

The science and technology framework is needed to protect and build on this predominance, according to the government, particularly in five critical technologies: artificial intelligence, engineering biology, quantum technologies, future telecommunications and semiconductors.

The first three of these research areas will be bolstered by an injection of £250 million in new funding -- and universities will want be in a position to grasp any opportunities that emerge from this. 

New investment is also planned for high-tech start ups and to boost the number of doctoral researchers in AI. Investment in research infrastructure and in Innovation Accelerators in UK city regions could also be beneficial.

For institutions outside of the south east, more cash is promised with a commitment to raise public R&D investment by at least 40 per cent (as set out in the Levelling Up White Paper). 

As higher education faces rising inflation and declining real term income from tuition fees, other sources of funding have to be fully exploited. From a governance perspective, boards will want to be assured that their institutions have the people and structures in place to quickly capitalise on any opportunities arising from the framework and its focus on targeted investment, growing clusters, infrastructure investment, and encouraging industrial partnerships. As with other policy priorities, such the skills agenda, strong relationships with industry, business and regional partners are increasingly important.

The framework comes on the back of the government’s 2020 R&D roadmap and recent speeches by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to the CBI and from George Freeman, the science minister,  which all place international partnerships at the heart of  the UK’s global science strategy.

Of course Horizon Europe, the EU’s £80 billion research fund, has been the most important international partnership in UK research for decades and the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future involvement is of major concern to universities and therefore to their governing boards. As part of the framework fanfare, the government announced a further extension until 30 June 2023 of its Horizon Europe funding guarantee, but has yet to reveal what will happen beyond that date.

The new framework at least provides a clear signal on the direction in which the government aims to steer the UK’s science, innovation and technology policies, and associated investment.

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