[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Science and Research

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:50 am on 24th June 2015.

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Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster 9:50 am, 24th June 2015

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that I am not sure I can necessarily answer. Given his criticisms of Oxford, he might get a kick from directly to his right, from Mr Smith.

Amid the great strides in technology and science, London is also an important centre for leading global research in the social sciences sphere, with the London School of Economics at the forefront. The sheer quality of research undertaken by the LSE is regularly attested by peers to be world leading. In the recent research excellence framework, the LSE was ranked as the top institution in the UK for its proportion of four-star, world-leading research. All that means that the LSE and the nation have extensive global reach, in particular within the public policy and governance sphere, to institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD and World Health Organisation. In the social sciences, however, it is harder to commercialise that work. Without mainly public funding, the LSE could not undertake the high-quality research that underpins its impact and provides the UK with considerable soft power globally.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, there was much feverish gossip about the pressing need to rebalance the economy away from an over-reliance on banking and finance. That task has been successfully undertaken here in the capital city, with the creative, tech, research and education sectors drawn together in what I regard as a virtuous circle, which in some cases has helped to spur physical regeneration. I touched on King’s Cross, a classic example of that—the Olympic site will be another. That has served only to entrench the dominance of the capital in the wider UK economy and has not addressed that rather more elusive rebalancing act: boosting the regions and other nations of the UK. As a London MP, I recognise that that is important—not least because of the ever-louder klaxon call of hostility towards London, something worrying for the rest of the UK.

The real challenge is how the rest of the UK’s universities, innovators and start-ups compete with the London and Oxbridge research powerhouse, and I look forward to hearing the views of other Members on that. One fifth of Government research funding is now claimed by our top three universities—that golden triangle—and the capital city has more than 100,000 square metres of new research facilities in the pipeline. Furthermore, the south-east and east of England and London account for some 52% of the research and development carried out in the UK.

If the Chancellor’s northern powerhouse and the broader devolution agenda are to work, he should examine how London’s universities have not just integrated academic excellence into the heart of this global city but provided a compelling educational offering to the world through the relentless building of links with the worlds of industry, commerce, Government and finance.