The National Science and Technology Council will provide strategic direction on the use of science and technology as tools to tackle great societal challenges, the PM announced today (21 June).
Sir Patrick Vallance will head up a new Office for Science and Technology Strategy, based in the cabinet office, and take on the role of national technology adviser in addition to his current roles as chief scientific adviser and head of the government office for science.
Aiming to cement the UK’s position as a ‘global science superpower’, the National Science and Technology Council will strengthen government’s insight into cutting-edge research and technologies, the PM said, putting science and technology ‘at the centre of policy and public services’.
The whole of government will be tasked by the PM to work with the new council and office, using the success of the UK vaccine programme as an example to be applied to other priorities that could provide ‘meaningful benefit’ to British people. This could include technology developed to reach net zero, cancer research and keeping citizens safe at home and abroad.
“From discovery to delivery, our vaccination programme has proven what the UK can achieve at scale and at speed,” said prime minister Johnson in a statement. “With the right direction, pace and backing, we can breathe life into many more scientific and technological breakthroughs that transform the lives of people across the UK and the world.”
According to the government statement, one of the Office for Science and Technology Strategy’s first tasks will be to review the technology bets the UK should prioritise for strategic advantage. The government is currently investing £14.9bn in R&D in 2021-22, its highest level in real terms for four decades.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Mark Smith, partner of Innovation Incentives at Ayming UK, said: “Funding promises only go so far. For the government to succeed in its innovation ambitions, we have to upgrade our innovation infrastructure.
“Funding agencies must be agile, our incentive schemes must be as effective as possible, and we must create innovation ecosystems that leverage our world leading academic institutions as well as private enterprise. Only then will we be best positioned to be a science superpower.”