Science and Technology Sector: International Competitiveness

Science, Innovation and Technology – in the House of Commons at on 3 May 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

What steps her Department is taking to support the international competitiveness of the science and technology sector.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

What steps her Department is taking to support the international competitiveness of the science and technology sector.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

The Government published the science and technology framework in March 2023, setting out our approach to making the UK a science and technology superpower by 2030. This will increase the UK’s strategic advantage in relation to other nations. As part of that, we have a 10-point plan, having identified five critical technologies, including AI, semiconductors and quantum, which we will prioritise to deliver the framework’s ambition.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

The Minister will know that I have written to the Department about the future of Syngenta in Bracknell. Berkshire is the Silicon Valley of the Thames valley, and it is important that we do everything possible to maximise investment and job creation. Will the Minister please agree to visit Syngenta with me, and to do what is necessary to ensure that this is not another GSK moment?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

I acknowledge my hon. Friend’s work to encourage innovation, including at Syngenta. My colleague, the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, has already met Syngenta, and one of us will follow up with my hon. Friend to see what more we can do to support innovation in the Bracknell area.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

We have a truly world-class nuclear skillset in Fylde, with Springfields being home to the country’s only nuclear fuel-manufacturing facility and the National Nuclear Laboratory, which last year made a significant breakthrough in developing lead-212, a cancer-fighting medical isotope. There are real opportunities not only to preserve but to build on that success. What conversations has my hon. Friend had with the Prime Minister and other Ministers about ensuring our domestic nuclear capability is the go-to choice for use in the UK and about maximising opportunities abroad?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

My hon. Friend always champions industry and innovation in his area. We recognise the UK’s significant capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle and the benefit this provides to our energy security and to realising export opportunities. Through the nuclear fuel fund, the Government are investing in Springfields and other parts of the supply chain to further expand essential capabilities so we can realise benefits for the UK and abroad. The £6 million medical radionuclide innovation programme will also develop capability in the production of radionuclides for medicine.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The life sciences sector is very exercised by the unintended but very high levy being paid to the Government for branded medicines in the NHS. The risk is that investment and jobs will go elsewhere, so what is the Secretary of State doing to make sure that that does not happen?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

We are negotiating hard on this. Obviously, the negotiations are sensitive at this time, but we are aware of the fact that we are ahead and we want to stay ahead in life sciences, which are part of our key technologies.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Biomedical sciences have been a success in my constituency, at Ulster University in Coleraine. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that that success is replicated and the United Kingdom becomes genuinely a world leader in biomedical sciences?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

Absolutely. We know we have a strong cluster there, and universities such as Ulster University are at the heart of that innovation. We will do exactly as the hon. Member said and make sure we can replicate as much of that clustering around the UK.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Broadband access is essential to UK competitiveness, yet Ofcom has revealed that just 220,000 of the 8 million households struggling to pay their internet bill have signed up to a discounted broadband package. When will the Government match Labour’s commitment to ensure that there is an industry-wide, mandatory and well-advertised social tariff for low-income families?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

There has been a fourfold increase in people taking up social tariffs, but we know we have to do more to help people with the cost of living. That is why we lent in to the carriers in the first place and encouraged the introduction of social tariffs, but we will do more. We will work with the carriers to make sure that those tariffs get advertised well, so we can get better take-up.