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Industrial Strategy

Part of Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 6:27 pm, 18th April 2018

We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution—a time of huge technological, demographic and environmental change—and the decisions we make now are crucial to our future. I welcome the focus brought by this industrial strategy, and particularly its focus on innovation. I am proud to serve on the Science and Technology Committee. It is science and research that delivers the innovation that drives a modern economy, and we are a world leader in science and research. Four of our universities are in the world’s top 10, one in six of the world’s top research papers are written here, and we have more Nobel prize winners than any country other than the US.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. Countries such as India and China are accelerating their investment and they want to woo our best scientists. That is why it is absolutely right that this Government are investing more in science and technology than any other Government in the past 40 years. Scientific innovation is not just about money—it is about people too. World-class science needs world-class people. I am pleased that this industrial strategy establishes the Rutherford fund to help recruit researchers, doubles the number of tier 1 visas, and gives a commitment to make it easier for world-class researchers to settle here. However, the devil is in the detail. We need a visa system that makes mobility easy for scientists. I thank the Secretary of State for the answer he gave on that earlier.

Research is changing. It is not just done by one scientist in one lab working alone—it is delivered through networks of collaboration. This industrial strategy points out that our closest relationships and collaborations are with EU member states. Britain has led the EU framework programmes, and I worked with Government Ministers to lead the latest one. More British scientists participate in them, and more hold European Research Council grants, than those from any other country. It is in our national interest to continue to participate. Ministers have confirmed that if the next framework is materially the same as the last one, Britain would like to continue. I ask them to make that point more positive by saying that we will continue to participate unless it is materially different.

We need to ensure that the best ideas are not just generated here but also developed and manufactured here. That is why I welcome the sector by sector focus in the strategy, and I would like to concentrate on some of those sectors.

Our space sector has trebled in size, and the jobs in it are highly skilled and highly productive. The Space Industry Act 2018 means that next-generation smaller, smarter satellites will not only be developed here but launched here. Space assets are key to our communications and our security. We are the only G7 country that does not have its own earth imagery assets. We have paid for the Galileo satellites, and Britain needs to benefit from that.

We are a world leader in life sciences. We are home to the Wellcome Genome Campus. It was a British Prime Minister who led the visionary 100,000 Genomes Project, and it is absolutely right that life sciences are at the heart of the industrial sector. We need to ensure that drugs are not just delivered and developed here but used here, and our Select Committee has done some very good work on how we can ensure that those revolutionary genomic drugs get delivered into the NHS.

Data is the lifeblood of the digital revolution, and we cannot separate digital from other sectors of the economy. The scandal of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica reminds us of the need for clear rules. It is great that the general data protection regulation is becoming the global standard and that this Government are delivering it into British law through the Data Protection Bill. The strategy also points to the need for legislation to be flexible, which I welcome.