Science Minister David Willetts spoke to the UKSPA 30th Anniversary Summit in Birmingham on Thursday 10 July. Addressing the Conference David Willetts said:
"I am in no doubt that science parks are an important part of the research infrastructure in the UK - and an important part of our ambitions to be the best place in the world to do science. But you haven’t always been seen in that light, and it is a matter of regret that over the last 30 years you have had a sporadic and unreliable level of engagement from government in both economic and policy terms. So, let me start today by saying firmly that things have changed. We know that you matter. And there is very real and sustained support for what you do in government now".
“We are not afraid to back big disruptive technologies. The Chancellor and I have announced an additional £600 million of investment for ‘Eight Great Technologies’ where the UK is world-leading, or has the potential to be so with the right investment. They are Big Data, Space and Satellites, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Synthetic Biology, Regenerative Medicine, Agri-science, Advanced Materials and Energy. This is not the same as picking winners".
"Each of the ‘Eight Great’ has applications potentially so significant and wide-ranging that they stretch way beyond any particular industrial sector. They are the result of the distillation of work done by experts in the Research Councils, the Technology Strategy Board and Foresight exercises conducted by the Government Office for Science. And now we have strong leadership groups and networks in each of these areas drawn from academia and business to help identify solutions barriers, prepare roadmaps and generate new research collaborations. Our focus on these technologies is already encouraging much greater collaboration and joint working between business, the research community and government. And science parks can help us strengthen these links further.
Often the most innovative environments are clusters and we are backing them across the UK. A new report on clusters, published by McKinsey and the Centre for Cities earlier this month, highlighted 31 economically significant clusters containing 8% of the UK’s businesses but generating 20% of UK output. Science parks do much to support clusters, often by forming the heart of the cluster itself, such as the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus in York. This site in Sand Hutton houses key public sector agri-food organisations alongside private sector companies, including the Food Environment Research Agency, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Environment Agency, making it a real hub and the only place of its kind in Britain.
Our clear agenda is to promote the places where this sustainable innovation flourishes, and science parks are certainly a key part of this picture. Let me give you a progress report on how we are getting on and the issues we are considering. This government has focused on 5 important initiatives to drive forward collaborative R&D and innovation. They are:
“It is because we know that science and innovation really matter to our long term economic growth that we have made tough choices and protected the ringfenced science budget, and made an unprecedented long term commitment to invest in science capital. Now we are working hard to ensure that we really do have an environment in which innovation can flourish. With your help Britain can and should be the best place in the world to do science. And the best place to innovate.”
The full speech can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/speech-by-david-willetts-to-the-uk-science-park-association
Photo – Left to Right
Photo by Marc Kirsten