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Policy update

BIGBENresized.jpgAs negotiations for leaving the EU continue, science and research policy discussions in Westminster continues to focus on the impact on UK R&D and plans for a post-Brexit UK research sector, writes Flo Bullough*.

In his Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced an increase to the four-year block of R&D investment.  This puts the Government on track to reach parity with our international competitors over the next 10 years of investment at 2.4% of GDP. This was followed by the publication of the Industrial Strategy White Paper, the government’s long-term plan for business, skills, research, infrastructure and productivity growth.

Ahead of the White Paper and Budget, the Society prepared a response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the Science Budget and Industrial Strategy. This supported plans for increased investment in science and research, but also raised concerns over the lack of consideration given to sustainable access to raw materials – especially in the context of Industrial Strategy funding initiatives (such as battery technology, where secure access to lithium is critical).

The response also highlighted the need for consistent funding for long-term monitoring projects, and increased financial support for regional growth initiatives (points covered in greater detail in our response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, March 2017).

In Higher Education policy, the recent reshuffle saw Jo Johnson MP (former Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation) replaced by Sam Gyimah MP who will continue the roll-out of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.

The Society works with University Geoscience UK to respond on areas of HE policy relevant to geoscience. This includes the recent submission to the Migration Advisory Committee Call for Evidence on the impact of international students in HE. This covered a number of themes such as: international student enrolment on critical Masters courses, their role in ‘soft power’ and influence abroad, and the impact of UK immigration policy on fieldwork, data collection and cross-border working. 

In energy policy, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published the Clean Growth Strategy (October 2017), setting out Government proposals for decarbonising the UK economy through the 2020s. This re-establishes the potential role of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in meeting UK decarbonisation targets, following the earlier cancellation of the CCS Competition (2015). We raised the issue of CCS development in our responses to the Industrial Strategy and the Science budget, as well as in our response to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Energy Inquiry into Scotland’s future energy supply.

Radwaste disposal

Adler deWind writes: In the December/January double issue we announced that the UK Government was consulting on two proposals regarding a geological disposal facility (GDF) for the UK’s higher level radioactive waste.  The government then postponed their launch.  However, there are now three such proposals, with closing dates of 19 and 20 April.  For further details, go to W: