Speaking at an SCI lecture, UK Research and Innovation [UKRI] CEO Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser stressed that a more inclusive research and innovation system will be critical to the government’s levelling up agenda.
During the ‘Fuelling the Future: science, society and the research and innovation system’ public lecture held by the SCI, Professor Dame Ottoline outlined that a more inclusive system could help bring about a “greener knowledge economy” in the UK and go some way toward driving the government’s Build Back Better plans for growth across the country.
Professor Dame Ottoline referred to a 2019 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Public Attitudes to Science Survey during her talk, which indicated that 78 per cent of people thought that the UK had to develop its science and technology sector further to remain competitive.
The same 2019 study suggested that 57 per cent of respondents thought that developing the science and tech sectors could generate more employment opportunities.
Professor Dame Ottoline said: “At present, we have quite an exclusive economy with significant wage inequality. There is a significant gap in productivity among firms and research and innovation [R&I] has a key role to play in building a knowledge economy that creates value and benefit across the UK.”
She continued: “We are an incredible, strong nation when it comes to the creation of knowledge - and so it seems nonsensical not to use that world-leading capability to fuel the economy. The join-up we need to connect the full system is about much more than researchers and innovators. We will only get the benefits of diversity if the system is joined up and deeply engaged with all the communities involved.”
Action is already underway within government to help secure and advancing the UK’s status as a global science superpower and leader in new fields of research and cutting-edge technologies. At the beginning of October 2021, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS] announced a review into the nation’s research, development and innovation [RDI] organisational landscape, to help identify whether improvements may be needed to ensure the UK remains a science superpower.
The Department for BEIS has said that the review will help build a RDI system that drives forward the government’s plans to stimulate economic growth and benefit society at large, as well as preserving the environment and promoting industries that will bring investment.
It also aims to futureproof the UK landscape of organisations undertaking all forms of RDI and ensure the system is agile and sustainable to respond to future challenges.
Professor Dame Ottoline took a moment during the lecture to pay tribute to the SCI for its part in helping develop science and innovation in the UK, calling it a “networking organisation” for the industry and a “good forum for the vision I have as UKRI starts to develop a new five-year strategy.”
The SCI describes itself as the place “where science meets business” and brings together academics, researchers, business leaders, laboratory technicians, students and librarians who all play their part in the innovation ecosystem to create solutions for the issues of today and tomorrow.
Chair of the SCI Board of Trustees, Harry Swan, thanked Professor Dame Ottoline for her comments and insights, calling them “inspiring”.
Swan said: “We are pleased that she [Professor Dame Ottoline] chose to outline her vision at SCI. Challenging times call for a different kind of thinking and I agree with her that the UK needs local empowerment and national focus. She cited the successful specialist ‘cluster’ approach behind Lincoln’s agricultural robotics activity and Dundee’s computer games sector.
“Similarly, SCI was established in 1881 as an innovation hub and still is, supporting clusters to adopt scientific models and develop them for societal good and the much needed ‘levelling up’ outlined by Professor Dame Ottoline”.