New department ‘puts science at the heart of government’

The creation of a new Government department with a focus on science has been welcomed by experts from across the sector.

Many UK scientists had been calling for a dedicated department for a number of years, and say the announcement puts science at the heart of government.

Downing Street said having a single department focused on turning scientific and technical innovations into practical, applicable solutions will help make sure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world.

The new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy, it added.

Michelle Donelan has moved from culture to be named Secretary of State for the new department.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, an association of 24 public research universities, said: “The decision to create a dedicated department for science, innovation and technology recognises the value of our sector and its importance to growing the economy, creating jobs and solving major challenges such as energy security, inequalities and net zero.”

Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said: “A dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Secretary of State with a seat in Cabinet is a clear signal that research and innovation sit at the heart of the Prime Minister’s productivity and growth agenda.

“The Royal Society has long called for such a Cabinet-level position.

“Michelle Donelan’s first job must be to secure association to Horizon Europe and other EU science programmes.

“These schemes support outstanding international collaboration and without being part of them we are undermining the Prime Minister’s stated ambition for the UK to be at the forefront of science and technology globally.”

Commenting on the establishment of the new department, Tom Grinyer, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, said: “The new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology with a Cabinet seat is very good news for the UK and puts science and innovation exactly where they should be – right at the heart of government.

“We are entering an exciting new era powered by science, engineering and technology at a time when there are great opportunities and important choices facing the country.”

While Professor Dame Anne Johnson, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said placing science at the heart of Government “is an important step in realising the UK’s ambitions to become a science superpower”.

Stian Westlake, chief executive of the Royal Statistical Society, said it was encouraging to see science, technology and innovation represented at the top table of British politics.