As a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry I was recently contacted to write to my MP in order to support their “Chemistry: We Mean Business” campaign, which is part of a broader campaign to maintain and even improve funding for science and engineering research in the UK. Below is the final draft of the letter I sent.
I am writing as your constituent, an employee at The University of Nottingham’s School of Chemistry and a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to highlight the importance of the chemistry sector to the Government’s growth agenda. I would like to ask you to write to the Treasury ahead of the 2013 Budget and call on your Government to ensure a stable funding and policy environment that enables the UK to derive the greatest possible advantage from its world-leading science base.
I work in the School of Chemistry at The University of Nottingham, fostering engagement between ourselves and industry, including many local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). I see firsthand the direct, positive economic and social impacts publicly funded science and engineering research can have. The University has a portfolio of over 30 spin-out companies which attract investment into the region and employ 100s of skilled workers. It also works alongside existing SMEs through a series of projects to support them during their technical and scientific product development. For example, I am involved in the “Chemistry Innovation Laboratory (CIL)” (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cil/index.aspx; funded through the European Regional Development Fund), which has to-date assisted over 30 chemical-using SMEs in the East Midlands. Neither the spin-out companies nor the University support systems available for SMEs such as CIL would exist without support from public-funding streams, including RCUK, the Technology Strategy Board and regional development or investment funds. Through continued and improved investment in suitable funding streams we can marry the technical knowledge of Universities with the commercial expertise of companies to generate genuinely innovative, world-leading solutions.
I agree with the RSC that a “targeted investment in the UK’s science base, including the chemistry sector, will play a significant role in the growth agenda by creating jobs and moving the UK towards a knowledge-based, high-tech economy in this challenging economic climate.” I also personally welcome the timely HoC Science and Technology Committee report “Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research”, which outlines problems with the current government innovation strategy and makes suggestions for future improvements and policies. It is my belief that we need to consider how we must create both an inventive and innovative science and engineering climate in the UK by supporting both “blue-sky” and “applied” research.
As such, I support the recommendations put forward by the RSC, working alongside a number of other organisations- the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) and the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network (CIKTN)- to promote the role of chemistry (and science) in advancing UK economic growth. This is demonstrated by official figures which show that the chemicals and related industries contributed the sixth largest share to UK exports in 2010 at almost £25bn, and that the value of chemistry knowledge exchange was worth an estimated £3.3bn to the UK economy in 2011.
In advance of the Budget, the RSC and its partners have identified three areas where continued Government action can help to achieve economic growth through the science sector:
- providing internationally competitive levels of research funding and the necessary research infrastructure to (i) attract and retain world-leading researchers and (ii) deliver the new knowledge, processes and technologies that will sustain future growth;
- creating a supportive financial and regulatory environment and world class opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation; and
- fostering the best talent pipeline in the world by meeting students’ needs and linking the needs of industry with the education system to safeguard UK productivity.
The RSC has welcomed some of the Government’s measures to support the science community to date. However, maximising the opportunities that the chemical sciences bring and building on the significant returns that investment in this area has created, requires continued support from the Government.
I would be grateful if you could engage with the Treasury on my behalf in advance of the Budget to highlight how the chemistry sector can contribute to UK economic growth. I would also ask you to outline the measures the Government can take to ensure that the UK can effectively capitalise on its innovative science base.