• The future for science and technology businesses – will party policies stand up?

News & Views

The future for science and technology businesses – will party policies stand up?

May 28 2010

During the run–up to the final stages of the election process, Labmate UK & Ireland went on a quest to find out how each of the three major political parties intended to demonstrate support for UK Science and
Technology companies during the coming years. Questions were addressed to the Science and Innovation Ministers of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat political parties.

Silvi Sutherland reports back on the responses received.

How do you propose to back and support UK scientific research companies - particularly small to medium sized businesses - bearing in mind the economic restrictions and cut-backs due to be imposed on the country?

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrats:
“We recognise that scientific research is an area which actually spurs economic growth, and therefore we need to do all we can to encourage it. In the short term, we’ve pledged not to cut spending on science in the next year - unlike the Conservatives.

“But we’ve also said we’ll carry out a thorough review of ways in which SMEs can be supported in investing in R&D. We want to make sure that we have a whole package of measures - including reformed tax credits, well-regulated seed funding, an expanded role for the Technology Strategy Board, and help for venture capitalists - but the key is to have a strong evidence-base for all these, so that what funds we do have are used most efficiently.”

Adam Afriyie, Conservative:
“We have set a clear objective to transform Britain into Europe’s leading high-tech manufacturer and exporter. We have already announced plans to reverse the most damaging part of Labour’s National Insurance rise, which is a tax on jobs. High-tech businesses also rely on a skilled workforce. We want to encourage more good science teachers in our schools. That’s why we will pay the student loan repayments for top maths and science graduates for as long as they remain teachers. This will provide real incentives for more graduates to teach science."

Will you retain the current grants available which assist UK business to develop and expand exports in the scientific fields?”

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrats:
“We think it’s wrong at this time of economic crisis to guarantee that we can safeguard funding for any given outlet, or even entire sectors. But our track record shows that where we can, we will back scientists and invest
in the cutting-edge technologies of the future. For instance, Vince Cable consistently argued that the VAT cut was a mistake, and that the Government should have put the money into helping high-tech R&D instead.”

Adam Afriyie, Conservative:
“Britain tops the tables for scientific research, but we’ve tumbled down the league tables for competitiveness. We must do more to close the innovation gap – the gap between the discovery and the deployment of products, services and processes that will deliver the jobs we so desperately need. So we are going to keep R&D tax credits, and focus and refine them so that they work better for small and high-tech businesses.

“We will re-establish national policy leadership for key technology sectors, and see a strong role for the Technology Strategy Board as a national innovation agency. I want the TSB to help identify key technology sectors and support the development stage of new high-tech businesses through targeted procurement competitions. We are also looking to improve the performance of UK Trade and Investment. We want to see a clearer focus on priority export markets and will regularly compare the level of support for exporters and inward investment against the services provided by our competitors.”

The Rt Hon Lord Drayson, Labour
Despite efforts made to contact Lord Drayson, who we understand was car racing in the US, Labmate UK & Ireland was at the time of going to press unable to include a response from the Labour Science Minister.

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