Labour should set science budget ‘for full Parliament’

A Labour government should set a science and research budget for the entire Parliament, and give universities a bigger role in driving local growth.

July 1, 2014

Source: National Archives

Those are among the recommendations from Labour peer Lord Adonis’ review of economic growth for the party.

Lord Adonis cites universities as being among the UK’s biggest strengths. “It has world-leading universities, an outstanding science research base, a flexible labour market, an open economy with one of the highest rates of foreign direct investment in the world, and many successful global companies,” he says in the report, titled Mending the fractured economy: smarter state, better jobs.

“The imperative is for a national growth strategy focused on innovation, skills, support for growth companies, and the empowerment of city and county regions to address infrastructure and skills weaknesses in particular.”

One recommendation is that “the budgets for science and the Technology Strategy Board should be set for the whole of the next Parliament, and should be priorities”.

Lord Adonis adds: “The funding of science is critical for the UK’s world-leading research base and highly regarded universities.”

Another recommendation is to reform local enterprise partnerships (LEPs). Lord Adonis says that “all universities within a LEP area should be represented”.

On education, Lord Adonis warns: “The number of university graduates has increased significantly over the past two decades, including for STEM subjects. But there has not been a corresponding increase in technical vocational training.”

He calls for “a major expansion of high quality vocational education and youth apprenticeships to establish a stronger non-university route into employment”.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: “We welcome Lord Adonis’ recommendation that budgets for science and research be prioritised and funded in the long-term after next year’s general election…We hope that the next government, whatever its hue, will place this recommendation at the heart of its growth strategy.”

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said that Labour “will need to put further proposals on the table to ensure that the work of modern universities which lead the way in supporting small businesses and in delivering relevant research in their regions is fully supported”.

She added that Labour “must be cautious about putting all of its eggs into the apprenticeship basket because graduates play a crucial role in regional growth and many graduates reside, study and then work in the same region”.

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