23 Jul 2024


£370m plan to build a better Britain through science and tech

Sunak: science and innovation are in our DNA

The British prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans, backed by more than £370m of new government funding, to boost infrastructure, investment and skills in technologies ranging from quantum and supercomputing to AI (artificial intelligence). The aim is to ensure the UK’s place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030.

The new Science and Technology Framework is the first major initiative from the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. It will challenge all of government to put the UK at the forefront of global science and technology this decade – using a coordinated cross-government approach.

The delivery of the new Framework will start with an initial raft of projects, worth around £500m in new and existing funding, aimed at ensuring that the UK has the skills and infrastructure to take a global lead in game-changing technologies.

Launching the initiative, Sunak said: “Trailblazing science and innovation have been in our DNA for decades. But in an increasingly competitive world, we can only stay ahead with focus, dynamism and leadership… The more we innovate, the more we can grow our economy, create the high-paid jobs of the future, protect our security, and improve lives across the country.”

The Framework includes a £250m investment in three “transformational” technologies to build on the UK’s strengths in AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology. The aim is to help a variety of industries to tackle global challenges such as climate change. This forms part of a commitment to five technologies, including semiconductors and future telecoms, that will come under a single government department for the first time.

The government will soon make further announcements on these technologies, including the publication of a wireless infrastructure strategy.

A key objective of the funding is to encourage partnerships between industry and academia. The government expects its £250m investment in key technologies to be matched by similar levels of private investment.  

Other initiatives under the new Framework include:
• £117m of funding to create hundreds of new PhDs in AI research, and £8m to find the next generation of AI leaders around the world to conduct research in the UK;
• a £10m uplift to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, totalling £50m, to help technology and science start-ups;
• plans to set up an Exascale supercomputer facility, which could tackle complex problems such as nuclear fusion, as well as a programme to provide dedicated computing capacity for AI research;
• £100m for a pilot bringing together partners in Glasgow, Manchester and the West Midlands to accelerate their growth into globally competitive centres for research and innovation;
• the setting up an Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria) to fund high-risk, high-reward R&D; and
• a £200,000 grant funding competition to advance cyber-physical systems such as robotics and digital twins that link the physical and digital worlds.

The Government describes science, innovation and technology as “the drivers of economic growth and productivity”. It believes that more than half of the UK’s future labour productivity growth will come from adopting the best available technologies, sand the rest from pushing the frontiers of technology further. Each £1 of public R&D investment results in £2 of private R&D investment in the long run, it adds.