Chris Skidmore – 2019 Speech on Embracing the Space Age

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Skidmore, the Science Minister, at the Policy Exchange on 16 July 2019.

Good afternoon everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here at Policy Exchange.

I’ve always been delighted to come to events here, they’ve certainly inspired me in my career over the past 15 years.

I simply couldn’t have imagined back in the early 2000s that one day I’d be standing at Policy Exchange addressing this august institution as the Space minister, or as my 4-year-old daughter calls me, Minister for the Universe!

It’s personally really satisfying to see Policy Exchange make that decision to gear up towards looking at space policy through the establishment of its space policy unit and indeed to launch its own space manifesto.

And of course, the date today is a very important date in any space fan’s calendar. For today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission.

It was at about this time 50 years ago, at T-minus 20 minutes before lift-off, that Jack King, the ‘voice of Apollo’, reported that 2 faults had been detected during countdown.

The first, was to do with communications equipment, which easily fixed.

The second was more serious, a leaky valve on the fuel line providing hydrogen to the Saturn V rocket. And a small team of technicians had been sent urgently to find a solution.

So just imagine the scenario. Twenty minutes before you start a 4-day, 250,000 mile trip into the void of space – propelled by human ingenuity and around 7.6 million pounds of thrust – a man with a wrench walks by and tells you don’t worry, he’s just got to do a quick repair to the rocket, and if there’s a problem move on to Plan B.

Or, alternatively, imagine being that technician. Years of planning and training, trials and tests; millions of dollars if not billions spent; the expectations of a nation and the attention of a global audience, all waiting to see what happens. The pressure would have been incredible.

But the prize was worth it. The moon landings have inspired generation after generation – after all, what child doesn’t want to be an astronaut? But the spin-off benefits from the research needed to explore space have also been undeniable – ranging from laser eye surgery to landmine removal, to portable X-ray machines and even baby formula.

So, it is not surprising that 50 years on, we still talk about the moon landing with admiration and reverence. And while I was born too late to see Apollo 11 touchdown in the Sea of Tranquillity, although I was watching on catch-up over the weekend the remarkable Moon landings live programme, I have always found space generally to be utterly fascinating, not least because of Apollo 11. We all know the names of the first men on the moon. When we think of space, we often think of NASA and the Kennedy Space Centre. And we all remember the immortal words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon’s surface for the first time.

But this is where I want to make an intervention. Because, I think, for many people, that’s sort of been the end of it – the big challenge was walking on the moon, and once Armstrong and Aldrin had done it, we started to think that space had somehow been ticked off. After all, only 10 other people have boldly gone where those 2 did, and nobody has set foot on the moon since 1972.

But, unless you’re an Olympic long-jumper, one giant leap is never the end of the story. And since 1969, we’ve come on in leaps and bounds in our knowledge of space, but also in our use of space.

Just look at Tim Peake – our very own British astronaut. Children today have been just as inspired by Tim Peake, and his return mission to the International Space Station, as kids were by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969.
It was a real honour to speak alongside Tim on the return of the Soyuz space capsule which is now on display in the Science Museum. If you haven’t seen it please do go and see it. It’s remarkable.

And as Space Minister I’ve been quickly aware of the strength of our own remarkable space industry. Just looking at our history, the UK was the third country after USA and USSR to have a satellite of our own in space – Ariel 1. And our early lead spurred the growth of key British companies like Inmarsat and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, as well as big companies active here from Airbus to Lockheed Martin.

And this strength absolutely continues today: our space industry has tripled in size since 2000, becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy. It employs close to 42,000 people throughout the UK, has an income of almost £15 billion, and, through the use of our satellite services, supports an estimated further £300 billion of economic activity.

I want the UK’s efforts in space to continue to grow, and for us to play our fullest role in exploring the solar system and understanding the universe. But this isn’t just about looking outwards at the universe, by going to Mars or hosting the headquarters of the Square Kilometer Array right here in Britain at Jodrell Bank, which I was delighted to see had the announcement on the UNESCO World Heritage Site last week.

Most pressingly, I believe that our efforts in space will help to preserve life right here on Earth. Through measuring the temperature of oceans, to monitoring changes to biodiversity and the extent of deforestation, satellite technology today is enabling us to observe the very real-time changes happening right here on Planet Earth.

And the UK has significant capabilities in satellite Earth Observation, including through our membership of Copernicus, which I want to see continue. These capabilities range from radar remote-sensing through to ultraviolet analysis of the physical, chemical and biological systems here and also to observe how these are changing.

These capabilities are pushing the frontiers of environmental science. For instance, the amazing work being done by the British Antarctic Survey to measure sea-ice dynamics or predict the future of the polar ice sheets.

As humanity’s impact on the world becomes ever more dramatic, gathering evidence from space becomes an increasingly pressing challenge.

Earth Observation, I believe, is therefore an essential green technology, vital for monitoring our changing planet and informing the decisive action we need to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And this is a phenomenal economic opportunity for the UK also – the earth observation sector is growing rapidly, currently supporting around £92 billion of economic activity. I want to see this progress continue as we continue to work to tackle climate change and deliver green growth.

And this work really shows that UK must continue to be one of the leaders of this new space age – a space age that isn’t rooted in Cold War rivalry, but in communication, in collaboration and in commercialisation; a space age which recognises the pivotal role that space will have in delivering life-enhancing and sustainable benefits right here on earth.

A very significant step, which I’m also pleased that Policy Exchange has supported in its Space Manifesto, is the creation of a National Space Council, which we announced just last month, and which will coordinate the Government’s space strategy and capabilities. This coordination will also be driven by a new National Space Framework, which will be owned and operated by the Council.

This will have implications throughout our society, because space affects policy in a wide range of government departments. Most obviously the Ministry of Defence for security and defence – indeed, my colleague Penny Mordaunt will be speaking at the Air and Space Power Conference later this week. But also the Cabinet Office for civil contingencies, Defra for earth observation, BEIS for industry and climate change, DCMS for communications, and across many other departments in terms of the enabling technologies that space and satellite technology can provide.

The National Space Framework therefore recognises three top-level national priorities aligned with the Cabinet Office-led Fusion Doctrine: those of Prosperity and Knowledge, Security and Protection, and thirdly Global Influence.

Through these, the Council will improve its understanding of future UK requirements, deliver the practical joint working across all government departments to improve policy coherence and, importantly, working with the sector, to achieve our ambitious growth targets. Last year the Space Growth Partnership published ‘Prosperity from Space’ – a blueprint to build on our success to date, to enable the UK to access over £70 billion worth of new opportunities by 2030. And we set out a national ambition of accelerating growth to secure 10% of global market share in commercial space activity by this date.

The structure of the National Space Council is still to be agreed with the Cabinet Office, but we expect it to have a permanent full-time secretariat and formal supporting structures from across government, industry and academia.

As we saw from President Macron’s recent announcement of a new space defence command in France, governments all over the world are recognising the strategic value of space. And for the UK, the new Space Council will provide renewed focus and ambition, to accelerate the excellent progress that we’ve already made to date.

We’ve also reaffirmed our commitment to the European Space Agency, or ESA – an organisation which we helped to found, and that we are absolutely proud to be a part of. We’re contributing around £300 million to ESA each year, and I believe that is money entirely well spent. After all, for every £1 we invest with ESA, we see an average return of £10.

While 50 years ago we were embarking on the mission to the moon, the next big space mission will be to Mars.

So I was delighted to see that the new Exo Mars rover will bear the name of a British woman and one of our great scientists, Rosalind Franklin.

The Rosalind Franklin rover will search for evidence of life on Mars, and it is packed full of British tools like the PanCam, a camera developed at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Lab which can record the landscape in 3D.

But our commitment to ESA is also more than just about financial investment, it’s also about investment in people, for space literally knows no borders. So, as part of our ESA membership, I’m delighted to announce we’ve made certain that British ESA staff working in Europe, and also European ESA staff working in the UK, will enjoy the same rights as one another as a result of the ESA Host Agreement: access to healthcare, pensions and benefits – and, most importantly – the right to have families of ESA staff living, working and learning in whichever ESA country they call home.

We’re committed to continuing collaboration with member states in ESA on research and on development – particularly in such an important year for ESA, with the Council of Ministers in November, where member states will agree ESA’s future programmes of work.

It’s fantastic to see that already preparations for that are also building up to an ambitious programme based on global collaboration, excellent science as well as commercial programmes that will support our Industrial Strategy.

You’ve probably heard enough from me about my road to 2.4% speech series I’ve been making as Research and Innovation Minister, but the government’s commitment to raise research and development spending to 2.4% of GDP offers a considerable opportunity to space and other technology-based sectors. The space sector is 6 times more R&D intensive than the UK average, and we will continue to work closely with ESA in order to develop programme proposals that benefit R&D as well as boosting our national capabilities.

This complementary approach offers significant opportunities to maximise the commercial and scientific impact of space, but also to maximise its role in tackling problems like climate change I discussed earlier. I look forward to continuing this strong and vitally important partnership, and to seeing many more fantastic achievements from ESA, for many years to come.

But our vision must also be international, and for some immediate evidence of our determination to work with all countries across the globe, I’m excited to say that on Thursday I’ll be signing a new memorandum of understanding between the UK and Portugal, alongside Portuguese Space Minister Manuel Heitor.

And beyond Europe, we’re also excited to host several international space agencies at the UK Space Conference in September, which will be the most important space-related event in the UK this year. We expect to see a host of international space agencies attending, supported by trade delegations.

Space is a truly global endeavour that benefits everyone, but we can only achieve these benefits if we have a safe and secure space environment. The UK is leading international discussions to determine practical ways both governments and industry can ensure Space will be available for future generations.

Building on our work with ESA, and the increased global appetite for international space agencies to work together, the UK Space Agency is now looking to enhance our level of international engagement and cooperation through a series of bilateral programmes.

The intent is to provide a real opportunity for the UK space sector, industry and academia, to strengthen its international relationships while also continuing to collaborate with our close partners across Europe.

That’s a key theme which runs right through the engagement I’ve taken forwards, also with our publication of our International Research and Innovation Strategy.

I’m delighted that space continues to form part of a wider strategy we have across government.

But that’s also why I can announce today that NASA and the UK Space Agency have today signed a letter recognising our joint interest in accessing the Moon for science, and in using private sector capabilities to support this endeavour. They have also agreed to set up a working group to coordinate joint scientific research and also to identify for the future collaborative opportunities, including the possibility of using a proposed UK commercial communication service at the Moon.

Our two countries have a fantastic history together, and space exploration has been a part of it for quite a while. Back in the 70s, Richard Nixon gifted pieces of moon rock gathered by Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 to some of America’s allies, including the UK.

If any of you went to a reception in Downing Street tucked away in a corner by the Prime Minister’s office you were able to see this piece of wood encapsulating the Moon rock. I understand you can now see them in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

It’s so important that today on this 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, we’re able to make this continued joint commitment for the future.

But if these mentions of NASA start making you think that maybe it is all about the USA after all, I’d like to set the record straight.

We as the UK have that fantastic story to tell. We are, for example, a satellite telecoms powerhouse; one in four telecoms satellites contains parts made in the UK. In fact, when I visited the Space Park at the University of Leicester in March, I was fascinated to hear about the instruments built at the University since 1967.

The University is obviously looking to maintain its track record, and I was very pleased last week to announce almost £14 million of funding to the University’s METEOR centre, which will be a hub for innovation in satellite design and operation, for revolutionising how we use the data that our satellites gather.

And also, exciting new businesses like OneWeb, which aims to provide high-speed broadband to the world through a constellation of 650 satellites, to have chosen the UK as their Headquarters.

I’ve met a host of companies on my tours across the UK and I have to say the enthusiasm and the drive of those leadership teams of these companies to do more if they have the chance and to provide that supporting role where we can as government, and will continue to do.

To continue this progress, I’m delighted to announce today a £2 million investment in ten new projects to develop innovative new instruments, which will put UK industry and universities in pole position for new commercial and scientific missions.

During the Farnborough International Airshow back in 2018, the UK Space Agency announced more than £30 million of funding for Sutherland in Scotland – helping Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop a vertical launch spaceport; giving Orbex the means to build a new launch vehicle; and helping Lockheed Martin to establish launch operations and an innovative new satellite deployment system, known as the Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle, boosting Scotland’s reputation as a go-to destination for vertical satellite launches.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, last month we’ve now joined up with Cornwall Council to invest a total of £20 million into the Newquay Spaceport, which is developing horizontal launch operations with Virgin Orbit.

The Space Industry Act 2018 is a major step forwards in establishing a safe and supportive regulatory framework to enable launches to take place from the early 2020s, and we’re working across government to develop the detailed regulations to implement the Act with industry and other interested parties.

We are also working with international partners to put in place the necessary agreements for companies from around the world to be able to come here to the UK, while investing in related facilities and technology, including almost £100 million for a new National Satellite Test Facility in Harwell, and £60 million for Reaction Engines to develop their revolutionary air-breathing rocket technology, which can be thought of as a cross between a jet and a rocket engine.

This is an exciting project that builds on Britain’s aerospace heritage; an amazing feat of engineering with a wide range of potential applications, and it’s now seen investment from BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce. I’m pleased to see the engine’s current tests in Colorado going so well, and I’ll be following the progress of the UK tests next year.

It is absolutely vital that these projects and investments continue, because the UK simply cannot afford to opt out of space. As I said I am not old enough to remember the moon landings but I do remember Project Juno. My father even worked on developing a Doppler ultrasound system, or the ‘Juno Dop’, for the mission. But in the end, the Juno mission failed to take off and Helen Sharman had to hitch a ride on a Soyuz. Because the rest of the world simply doesn’t wait, we had to run to catch up.

We cannot make that same mistake twice. We need to build on our strengths and to make space a major priority for the UK’s future. This means continuing to be a major investor in ESA, to put forward our best and most talented minds, and to invest in our satellite applications cluster from Glasgow to Goonhilly. We cannot afford to be left behind again.

So, let me round off this speech where I started – with the hydrogen valve on Saturn V, a few minutes before the launch of Apollo 11. In the event, the problem with the valve was a minor one. The team poured on cold water to freeze the valve, tightened some bolts and bypassed the valve all together. The countdown proceeded as planned, and everything was in place for ignition, just a few minutes from now at what would be 2:32pm, GMT.

It was the start of an amazing journey. One that has inspired all of us for half a century. The Arts and Humanities Research Council together with the UK Space Agency have been compiling stories from those who watched in real-time the moon landing, and I think it’s fair that we give the last words to some of them.

There are many great tales emerging out of this new research, but I want to focus on just 2 stories of scientific inspiration.

Nigel Shadbolt, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, said:

I was 13, a young boy in a small village in the Peak District. I remember the exhilaration of the moment… an exhilaration shared with bleary eyed friends later that morning in School Assembly. The night’s events instilled in me a passion for science. A passion that led me into a 40 year career in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science.

And the account of Lance Thompson says it all:

I would not choose to have been born at any other time: my 62-years have been so influenced by the ‘Space Race’ it is difficult to imagine any other life for myself. The passion I had for the whole adventure resulted in me following a career in engineering, specifically in remote sensing. For a young lad from Newcastle, this was not the usual prospect. Had I not popped into the world at just the right time I would not have been inspired by mankind’s greatest undertaking.

For these 2 young boys, the moon landings were a moment of magic that helped shape the course of their entire lives. And for all of us, young or old, space continues to inspire and amaze. It brings the visceral excitement of embarking on voyages of discovery. It sparks major scientific advances in our understanding of the universe. And it creates opportunities, opportunities for businesses to deliver great new products and services to consumers. These are the reasons, among many, that we continue to persist and invest in space.

So, as we celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this week, I want us to remember that the small step that Armstrong took was just the first in an amazing, inspiring and essential journey. And that journey is one that I’m proud that the UK will be continuing on for many decades to come.

Thank you.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Statement on Climate Change

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, in the House of Commons on 24 June 2019.

I beg to move,

That the draft Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, which was laid before this House on 12 June, be approved.

It is an honour to be in the House debating this order less than two weeks after this seminal legislation was laid in Parliament. I should say that I stand here as the interim Minister for Energy and Clean Growth—as an understudy to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry). It is a tribute to her efforts that we are debating this measure today. I am sure that she would have dearly loved to be at the Dispatch Box speaking to it herself. I pay tribute to her work, her industry, and, above all, her passion, which is testament to the legislation that is being taken through today.

The draft order would amend the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in the Climate Change Act 2008 from at least 80% to at least 100%. That target, otherwise known as net zero, would constitute a legally binding commitment to end the United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a sobering report on the impact of global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In that report, it made clear that a target set to limit global warming at 2°C above pre-industrial levels was no longer enough. It made clear that by limiting warming to 1.5°C, we may be able to mitigate some of the effects on health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. It made clear that countries across the world, including the United Kingdom, would need to do more. The House has heard of the great progress we have made in tackling climate change together, cross-party, and how we have cut emissions by 42% since 1990 while growing the economy by 72%.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)

When Greta Thunberg was in Parliament a few weeks ago, she called on politicians to be honest at all times. Does the Minister agree that it is a bit misleading to suggest that we deserve great credit because we have reduced emissions by 42% since 1990, since we have done that primarily by outsourcing a huge amount of our manufacturing emissions to other countries? We do not account for our consumption emissions, and if we did, our success would look rather less rosy than he has just presented.

Chris Skidmore

The draft order builds on a framework of legislation set in 2008; I see the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) in his place, who introduced that legislation. We have always recognised as a country that we are on a journey towards reducing our carbon emissions. That journey includes ensuring that we show global leadership and demonstrate to other countries that are not cutting their carbon emissions the need to do so. Above all, we recognise the need to do so sustainably and to ensure that we can continue to grow our economy. The last thing we want to do is reduce our carbon emissions at the risk of increasing unemployment and shrinking the economy. We have taken the independent advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which has demonstrated how we can do so not only sustainably but, importantly, in a just transition. It is important for some of the poorest in society that we have a just transition towards net zero.​

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab)

Does the Minister agree that the Government, as the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, should also be a net zero purchaser and provider of services? That means a root-and-branch change of the way that government— local, national and quangos—procure what they buy for taxpayers.

Chris Skidmore

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and for the leadership she has shown on the Environmental Audit Committee. I will come on to how the independent Committee on Climate Change produced its response, but it set out clearly a range of scenarios involving a net zero transition and what action would be needed in industry, within society and among individuals to go from 80% to 100%.

We have set carbon budgets 1 to 5 to take us to 2032. Carbon budget 6, which will lead to 2037, will be set by June 2021 at the latest. It is important to recognise that we all have a role. Government especially have a role not only in legislating today, to ensure that we set the policy framework for achieving net zero, but in demonstrating each and every one of its Departments’ commitment to net zero. Her Majesty’s Treasury will conduct a review over the summer, as we move towards the spending review, of the impacts on business, society and across the public sector of the need to decarbonise swiftly and securely.

As part of that progress and the pathway towards net zero, we will be publishing an energy White Paper in the summer. A variety of different documents will be published, but I take the hon. Lady’s point; when it comes to the public sector, we will need to show leadership. We will need to be able to explain or change and to set out how all different areas of society will meet future carbon budgets—whether that is carbon budget 6, 7 or 8—on the road towards net zero.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

Will the Minister give way?

Chris Skidmore

I have given way a significant number of times, and this will be the last intervention for a while so that I can make progress with my speech.

Dr Drew

The Minister will know that the NFU has set a target for earlier than 2050. At the very least will he look at options for bringing forward the date by which we should be able to meet the target of net zero emissions?

Chris Skidmore

We have obviously taken advice on the 2050 target from the independent Committee on Climate Change, which has suggested that at the moment 2050 is the earliest possible date for reaching net zero. Obviously, we are the first G7 country to make that commitment to 2050. Other economies, such as Norway, have committed to 2038. As part of the Government’s local industrial strategy, the Greater Manchester area committed, just last week, to a net zero target by 2038. I welcome the NFU’s commitment, but what we are saying as a Government is that all agencies across society will need to take action.

We welcome the NFU’s leadership on agricultural emissions and looking at how the agricultural sector can be decarbonised. However, when it comes to the framework of the Climate Change Act, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North highlighted during the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary ​of State, the review mechanism is built into the legislation to allow us the opportunity to review the target in five years. When it comes to the overall cost—and some hon. Members may wish to reflect on the costs of going from 80% to 100%—the review mechanism is important. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the overall cost envelope of reaching net zero be the same as the 80% envelope, because since the original 80% target was set out, the costs of renewables and other technology have come down.

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con)

My hon. Friend is making a hugely important point. Earlier he talked about the need to balance the need to reduce emissions with concerns about jobs. Does he agree that we have already seen the creation of 400,000 low-carbon jobs in this country, and that by leading the transition to a clean economy—which will happen whether we like it or not—there will be even more opportunities for job creation in the future?

Chris Skidmore

I thank my hon. Friend for making that excellent point, and he is right. When we consider any impact on wider society of introducing this legislation over the next few decades, while we may see short-term costs from the transformation, we need to look at the investment opportunities that will be created by new green jobs, which are expected to rise from the 400,000 figure he mentions to 2 million by 2030, potentially creating an economy worth over £150 billion in the longer term. It is important that that investment is recognised, because we want the UK to lead the world in future technologies such as carbon capture and storage. The legislation today provides a catalytic moment for us to look at how we can achieve this target and to invest for the future. The Treasury review will lead into the spending review and we will wish to look at how we can continue to invest in clean growth as a technology.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I congratulate the Government on bringing this proposal forward and assure him of my party’s support. I want to put that on record today. This issue is a topic of conversation every day in my office: it has become that sort of issue. Will the Minister outline how he intends to bring businesses along on the climate change agenda and ensure that they are encouraged, rather than forced, to make small changes that could make lasting changes globally? It would be great to bring small businesses along, as it would be a step in the right direction.

Chris Skidmore

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his leadership on the issue. We have had several conversations in the past few weeks on the legislation, but he is right that we have to take a whole of the United Kingdom approach to this. I know that it is more difficult for certain industries to make the changes that are needed, but for small businesses and those groups that we know will have questions or difficulties in making the transition, we will want to be able to set that out clearly. The energy White Paper will be published shortly, as the first in a series of documents to demonstrate the changes and consultations that we need. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that those consultations will allow the voice of small business to be heard in this debate. It is possible to achieve the changes, and we want to make sure that small businesses feel reassured of that.​

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend welcome the support of the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, the NFU, the Royal Academy of Engineering and many household-name companies, because the legislation will give them certainty about investment so that they can benefit from the growth in our economy? It really is not only achievable to reach net zero by 2050, but affordable.

Chris Skidmore

I thank my hon. Friend for putting on record the wide range of support from many companies that have written to the Prime Minister and set out their own ambitious targets. I feel a bit like the BBC when it comes to whether I should name certain companies rather than others, but I know that many food manufacturers and retail corporations—big names on the high street—have already made the commitment to 2050. We are following in their footsteps as a Government and Parliament to provide the legislation today. My hon. Friend is right: the legislative framework will provide long-term security for those companies to begin their transitions.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)

Within the Government, there are many different estimates of the impact on jobs and the cost to the Treasury. Why do we not have an impact assessment for this statutory instrument? That would be good regulatory and legislative practice.

Chris Skidmore

The way that the legislation from the Climate Change Act 2008 has been framed means that impact assessments are not needed specifically for the SI. We did not have an impact assessment when we moved from 60% to 80%, because the risk is incumbent on Government in making the legislation. The impact assessments that are needed under the framework of the Act arise through the carbon budgets themselves. We have already legislated for carbon budgets 1 to 5, to 2032. The framework for carbon budget 6 will be recommended by the independent Committee on Climate Change ready for next year: it needs to be implemented by June 2020. There will be a full impact assessment on the next period, 2032 to 2037.

Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), it is the carbon budget process that needs the certainty in place for businesses and society to plan ahead. Any impact assessments that are made will reflect carbon budgets 6, 7 and 8. The Treasury is also taking forward its own independent impact assessment of the wider costs to business and society. That work is ongoing and will be presented at the time of the spending review.

Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) (Con)

Many of my constituents, especially schoolchildren, will be delighted by this announcement, but others are rightly sceptical about the costs. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the plan will be achievable and affordable?

Chris Skidmore

My hon. Friend is right that the legislation today is not simply about warm words or passing a law. We need to be able to demonstrate the action that lies beneath it. Action will come relatively quickly with the publication of an energy White Paper in the summer that will look at the future of our energy ​supply, at a household level and an industrial level, and the energy network itself. The White Paper will demonstrate the action that the Government are taking and it will lead to a series of future consultations.

In order to lead the debate on climate change and demonstrate the global leadership that the UK wishes to have, it is right that the process highlights the need for clean growth. That is not oxymoronic: we can grow the economy at the same time as removing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere and ensuring that new, greener technologies and more renewable forms of energy come on board. It is right that we lead that conversation, that we reassure those who may be concerned about the future, and that we take action to demonstrate to those businesses worried about any economic impact that this transition is both just and sustainable.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)

This measure is not long overdue but it is welcome, and I believe it will be very popular right across the country. Has my hon. Friend looked at the interim report of the all-party parliamentary group on British bioethanol, which proposes that E10 petrol should be introduced as standard in the UK, as it is in most parts of Europe, America and Australia? That would reduce carbon emissions from standard petrol by the equivalent of 700,000 cars; it would save jobs in the north-east of England, where the two British bioethanol plants are based; and it would be cleaner in terms of pollution. It would, of course, be a temporary measure while we introduce more electric cars, but is it not overdue?

Chris Skidmore

My right hon. and learned Friend has also raised that point with me in private, and I am happy to raise the issue of bioethanol with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has responsibility for agriculture. It is important to reflect that, as part of a grand challenge in our industrial strategy, we have set out a number of missions on the future of mobility and transport in our cities, including the reduction of congestion, the introduction of electric vehicles and the adaptation of battery technology. I was delighted to visit Warwick Manufacturing Group on Friday, to discuss the advances it has made with lithium batteries. We must do that because of the need to reduce not just carbon emissions but air pollution; we know that tens of thousands of people are literally dying as a result of air pollution in our streets and cities, so the impact we make today is not just for 2050 but for now.

Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)

The Government have committed to phasing out new sales of the internal combustion engine by 2040. My Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has recommended that the date be brought forward by almost a decade, if there is to be any chance of meeting the commitment of net zero by 2050. Will the Minister look again at the phasing out of the internal combustion engine, so that we can get more electric vehicles on our roads and bring down carbon emissions?

Chris Skidmore

I could not agree more with the hon. Lady: we want to see the greatest possible transition, as fast as possible, to electric and hybrid vehicles for the future, but we have to be able to do it in a sustainable way. We have to ensure that electric vehicle technology, including batteries and other opportunities, moves with ​us at the same time. Other countries have moved faster than us, and I recognise the points the hon. Lady makes, but what is important is that we begin this discussion about how we can achieve that. There are a number of policy measures by which we can do it. There is also a supply-side as well as a demand-side issue when it comes to electric vehicle technology, and we need to be able to work on both sides of that economic argument in order to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads. There are issues about charging points, which I also recognise. We need to do it in a sustainable and affordable way that ensures that we can continue a transformation of the economy.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Ind)

I would really welcome an earlier shift towards electric cars and electric bikes, but is it not the case that, where possible, we really need to be getting people out of their cars altogether and encouraging greater use of cycling and walking? Will the Minister assure me that there will be increased investment in cycling and walking?

Chris Skidmore

I will get back to my speech in a moment. It is important that the Government are able to set out a pathway for considering the range of responsibilities across society, and that will encourage a range of individual actions. The Committee on Climate Change is the lead independent committee whose advice the Government have taken in order to legislate today. It has set out a range of future possibilities to reach net zero, many of which include individual actions for reaching the final 4%, but this is about system change and decarbonising our energy and heating systems, both domestically and industrially. There are a large number of areas where we will need to take action across society, and we need to be able to take that action now.

Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD) rose—

Chris Skidmore

I have been generous in taking interventions—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)

Order. If I might help the Minister and, indeed, the House, the Minister has been very generous in giving way and a great many Members have intervened on him. Perhaps the House is not aware that this debate has been allocated 90 minutes. That means that we will stop at 13 minutes past 7, which is only just over an hour away. Every time somebody intervenes, they take away the time of Members who have been sitting patiently, waiting to make speeches.

Please do not be angry with the Minister for not giving way. He has been very generous and I am going to encourage him not to extend his generosity much further.

Chris Skidmore

The Committee on Climate Change has told us quite clearly that ending the UK’s contribution to global warming is now within reach. It has advised that a net zero emissions target is necessary, because climate change is the single most important issue facing us; that it is feasible, because we can get there using technologies and approaches that exist, enabling us to continue to grow our economy and to maintain and improve our quality of life; and that it is affordable, because it can be achieved at a cost equivalent of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. As I have said, owing to falling costs, that is the same cost envelope that this Parliament accepted for an 80% target. That is before taking into ​account the many benefits for households and businesses—from improved air quality, to new green-collar jobs. I applaud the committee for the quality, breadth and analytical rigour of its advice.

Recent months and weeks have been a time of huge and growing interest in how we tackle the defining challenge of climate change. Calls for action have come from all generations and all parts of society—from Greta Thunberg to David Attenborough, from schoolchildren to women’s institutes. My message today is, “As a Parliament we hear you, and we are taking action.”

This country has long been a leader in tackling climate change. Thirty years ago, Mrs Thatcher was the first global leader to acknowledge at the United Nations

“what may be early signs of man-induced climatic change.”

Eleven years ago, this House passed the ground-breaking Climate Change Act, the first legislation in the world to set legally binding, long-term targets for reducing emissions. The Act, passed with strong cross-party support, created a vital precedent on climate: listen to the science, focus on the evidence, and pursue deliverable solutions.

Today we can make history again, as the first major economy in the world to commit to ending our contribution to global warming forever. I ask Members on both sides of the House to come together today in the same spirit and to support this draft legislation, which I commend to the House.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Speech at Launch of Smart Export Guarantee

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, on 10 June 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen – good afternoon. It’s great for me to be here with you during London Tech Week – an event which I’ve been looking forward to since I took the job of Science Minister back in December.

And it’s even more exciting for me now, because as well as my usual brief – which covers science, innovation, higher education and agri-tech, among many other topics – I’m currently looking after the energy and clean growth portfolio.

And all of these things, I think, fit together in a very real, and very important way.

Just under a year ago we received the landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees; a report which provided the clearest picture yet of the catastrophic impacts of rising global temperatures.

We immediately sought the advice of the Committee for Climate Change, asking what we needed to do to accelerate our own decarbonisation, and how we could make this benefit bill-payers and businesses alike.

We received the Committee’s response in May. The report is comprehensive and authoritative and the advice is clear: limiting climate change is achievable. But it will take a tremendous effort – across all sectors of the economy, in all corners of the country – to meet our goals. And a huge surge of innovation to ensure that we can continue to prosper through this transition.

Recently, I’ve been making a series of speeches on our national R&D investment, and our plans to increase spending on innovation to 2.4% of GDP, rising to 3% in the longer term – an increase that will affect every area of our lives. We’re putting two-and-a-half billion pounds into our efforts to decarbonise across the board, giving us a great chance to be at the cutting edge of the technologies of the future.

Many people say that we’re in the early years of a fourth Industrial Revolution, a change just as profound as the birth of the steam engine and mass production, or the dawning of the digital age. But my colleague the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has rightly identified that we’re entering into an agricultural revolution too – how we use our land will have to change, just as everything else will.

Farmers of course know this all too well, having been on the front-line last summer when temperatures were extraordinarily high, and food production became particularly challenging.

It might be this understanding that has inspired our agricultural sectors to embrace innovation, whether that’s exploring vertical farming to reduce waste and preserve our soil, using AI to monitor the relationship between bees and their environment to keep both in better health, or adopting precision agriculture techniques to improve crop yields and reduce fertiliser use. We have even begun using robots to plant, grow and harvest crops – as successfully trialled by Harper Adams University with its ‘Hands-Free Hectare’ project, which has attracted global interest.

I think that this gives us a glimpse into how we’ll be producing food in the future. These are all crucial developments, and each can make a major contribution to reducing our carbon footprint. But today, I want to focus in on another area where we could see real change: energy.

Of course, you don’t have to look very hard to see that, over the years, there has been a great deal of change here.

Go back 50 years or so and you’d find the landscape unrecognisable – literally so, for anyone who can remember the smog and soot of the mid-20th century. In fact, a hundred years ago, and just a few meters away from here, the Coal Drops – which are now being converted into a retail quarter – would have been filled with piles and piles of pitch-black coal, delivered from South Yorkshire and dispersed into London by narrowboat and horse-drawn cart.

Nor is it just the fuel that’s changed. Back in the 1960s and 70s, electricity was provided by your local electricity board – and that was about all you knew. If more energy was required, someone would phone someone, who would in turn phone someone else, until, eventually, someone in a power station was tasked with increasing the flow of coal into the furnace.

Coal was king, while solar power and offshore wind were considered curiosities – or even fantasies – if they were ever considered at all.

But today, the story is entirely different. In 1970s and 80s – and even into 1990 – to power our nation we burned through 70 million tonnes of coal each year. Just last week we saw an 18-day run of coal-free days – something we haven’t seen since the dawning of the first industrial revolution. And this morning, none of our power was being generated by coal.

This is a real testament to our flourishing renewables sector. In 2010 we had just under 10 gigawatts of renewable electricity. But at the end of last year, we’d more-than-quadrupled that. Last quarter, 54% of electricity generation was from low carbon sources, and on the 14 May this year a quarter of our power came from solar – these are the best results we’ve ever seen.

In the wider green economy, we’re employing some 400,000 people in green jobs, and we’re aiming to see that number increase to as many as 2 million over the next decade.

And these are jobs throughout the country:

In Hull, Siemens Gamesa have employed over 1,000 people at their turbine blade factory

On the Isle of Wight, MHI Vestas have installed a new blade mould in their factory, creating 1,100 jobs and adding more than £40 million to the local economy. While in Fawley the same company have turned a decommissioned oil-fired power plant into a state-of-the-art painting and logistics facility for their 80-meter turbine blades

And in places like Grimsby and Barrow-in-Furness, people are seeing the economic benefits of new investment in operations and maintenance facilities for offshore wind.

The Offshore Wind Sector Deal, launched on 7 March, has committed to looking at the technologies of the future, working across the R&D sector and institutions, which will provide the UK with significant export opportunities, including digital and robotic technologies for surveying and operations and maintenance, and next generation technologies contributing to cost reduction and grid integration.

So not only are we decarbonising, we’re also diversifying – bringing these new technologies in, alongside natural gas and nuclear, to modernise our approach to energy. At the same time, we are building flexibility and reliability into a new, digitalised, decentralised system, through the rollout of smart meters and the deployment of technologies such as batteries and smart appliances, as outlined in our Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan.

We are already seeing more generation located closer to people’s homes, an increase in energy demand as electric vehicles begin to take off, and a huge passion for climate-conscious policies and green products among the British people.

Our citizens want to do the right thing, and to be trusted to make their own decisions – exactly what this government wants to see too. Crucial to this effort is empowering both individuals and businesses to take control of their energy use; ensuring that people have the means to do what works for them, and are rewarded for their efforts.

So today, I’m really pleased to announce our new plan to develop small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation here in the UK. Supplier led and subsidy free, we’re calling it the Smart Export Guarantee, or SEG for short, and its legislation has been laid in Parliament today – meaning it will be implemented before this year is done.

At its most basic, the SEG is a guarantee that those homes and businesses that supply their own low-carbon electricity – through solar panels on the roof, for example, or an anaerobic digestion plant on a farm – will have the chance to sell their excess electricity to the grid through a market mechanism. They’ll be known as ‘exporters.’ Most electricity suppliers – any with more than 150,000 UK customers – will be required offer at least one ‘export tariff’, which will be the means through which this low-carbon electricity is bought and sold.

The precise details of the tariff – such as length and level – will be for suppliers to determine, but there are a few core conditions, not least that exporters must be paid for what they produce, even when market prices are negative.

We expect to see these suppliers bidding competitively for electricity to give exporters their best market price, while providing the local grid with more clean, green energy. Indeed, since we first consulted on the SEG we are seeing great signs that the market is gearing up to rise to this challenge, with some suppliers, such as Bulb and Octopus, offering or trialling export tariffs to small-scale generators.

As the Secretary of State has set out previously, it is now time to move away from deployment through subsidy – paid for through a levy on bills – and towards a more market-based approach. This will benefit consumers, and will spur the sector to take advantage of innovation in technology and processes to reduce costs.

In line with our Industrial Strategy, our aim is to enable the small-scale low-carbon generation sector to fairly access the wider energy market and deliver clean, smart and flexible power. This will extend the benefits of a smarter energy system more widely, which will aid ambitions to further reduce emissions.

And perhaps most exciting of all, the SEG will benefit from an overlap with other parts of the low carbon transition, from electric vehicles to home storage and smart tariffs.

A key motivation for the SEG is enhancing the role that generators can play in driving forward a smarter energy system, using smart meters and time of use tariffs, which will allow more consumers to benefit from flexible electricity prices.

Under the previous Feed-in Tariffs scheme, exported electricity was largely unmeasured, flowing back to the grid without metering. Under the SEG, exports will be metered, supporting the roll-out of smart meters and ensuring compatibility with the rise in use of both electric vehicles and storage batteries.

So In the home of the future, customers could generate solar power, use that power to charge their car and go for a drive; then, when they came home, they could sell the power left in the car’s battery back to the grid at a time of peak demand – so at a better price for them, while taking some of the load burden off national generation.

All of this will mean that there has never been a better time for innovative, low-carbon products and services to come to market. And with this legislation, we will ensure that we achieve that smart, green, flexible future we all want to see.

This is an evolving field – one that is welcoming to any business or individual that is ready and willing to develop new ideas and new technology. As I often say to the young people I speak to – whether I’m wearing my University Minister hat or my Science Minister goggles – great ideas can come from anywhere.

That’s why as well as talking to all of you, this London Tech Week I’m pleased to announce the winners of our Energy Entrepreneurs’ Fund.

Since first running in 2012, the EEF has been one of the pillars of our Energy Innovation Programme. So far it’s supported 133 projects, leading to more than 300 new jobs being created, more than 100 patents being filed, and more than £100 million of private sector investment.

And I’m delighted to say that we’re maintaining this excellent record, with today’s announcement of the 19 winners of Phase 7 of the fund.

These winners, whose details we’ve published today, will be receiving a share of over £8 million to support the development of their technologies in energy efficiency, power generation, and storage – technologies which will, of course, be essential to the SEG, and to that home of the future.

Maybe it’s because I’m coming to this portfolio with fairly fresh eyes, but it’s been a revelation for me to see the terrific progress we’re making, and the many, many reasons we have to be optimistic about green growth in this country.

As I said back at the beginning of my speech, we all know that we’re facing down a huge challenge, but I’ve seen a tremendous level of engagement from businesses and individuals throughout the UK, and as much as I know the enthusiasm is there, I want to make sure it spreads to every single person in this country.

It’s one of the reasons that we’re so keen to host COP26, which we’re negotiating at the moment. Of course there are other countries that have a great story to tell, and have every right to host, but I think what we’re doing here is truly exceptional, and is setting a precedent for the rest of the world to follow. After the success of Green GB Week, I have no doubt we’d do an excellent job with COP.

But that’s something for the future. For the time being, I’m delighted by the Smart Export Guarantee, and I’m really excited to see the difference it will make in the years ahead. There are benefits in this for consumers, and plenty of opportunities for the sector and its suppliers too.

We’ve seen the energy landscape change over the centuries, and I think we’re about to see it change again for the better. A cleaner, leaner system – with the British people at its heart – is on its way.

So I hope you’ll take that optimism with you into the rest of this week, and I want to thank you all for listening today.

Thank you.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Speech at the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, at the Arts and Humanities Research Council on 6 June 2019.

Good evening. It’s a great pleasure to be invited to deliver tonight’s lecture here in Burlington House. And, as a Fellow of the Society of the Antiquaries which calls it home, it’s only right that I’m going to be talking about the value of the Arts and Humanities – both to universities and to contemporary society.

The last time I spoke at the Society was in 2013 when I launched my book, Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors. As many of you know, I’ve attempted to try and achieve a work-life balance that involves juggling policy and public service, with a personal passion for exploring the past and continuing to write history.

I continue to do so, not for any financial reward or material gain: but because, like many of you here this evening, I am drawn by that overwhelming desire to understand, to comprehend, how different, how similar, previous generations are to our own, and to understand them on their own terms, for their own sake.

It is not something that can ever be fully measured, or its value codified by some anonymised data collection processor.

Indeed, my own graduate outcome data was only salvaged at the last moment, in the final week before I turned twenty nine, when to my surprise I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Kingswood. That brought to a sudden end any hopes I might have had of my first career path of choice, and dream of entering academia.

I must admit to feeling rather guilty, however, being in the presence of the AHRC this evening. I firstly wanted to take this opportunity to get something off my chest, and to say thank you for the support that the Council gave me as a masters and doctoral student in the early 2000s.

And to apologise that I never finished the DPhil that I was funded for.

I hope that I can be forgiven: I wanted to say, however, that what I learnt then, the skills that I acquired, the knowledge and research that I began, I hope did not go to waste.

Indeed, while I can’t account for the end quality of the work I undertook, I do recognise absolutely the value that it brought me.

And it is to that theme of value, and the value of the humanities, which I wish to reflect upon this evening. Tonight also marks – exactly to the day – the start of my seventh month in office as Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. A milestone which I have to admit I didn’t think I’d get to when I took the role on in December!

I have been especially keen since then to highlight the role of the Arts and Humanities when it comes to, not just understanding, but also tackling the major challenges we face in society today.

Indeed, this has been a guiding principle in my approach to both sides of my ministerial portfolio to date, which – thanks largely to binary government divides – sees me cover the higher education side of my brief as a Minister in the Department for Education, and the science, research and innovation element as a Minister in the Department of BEIS.

But I’ve always been keen to build bridges between these two portfolios and to do everything I can to bring both sides of my brief together.

That’s why, in my first major speech I made back in January, I set out my vision for a “unity of purpose” – where I didn’t just try to link up the teaching and research sides of my portfolio, but also bring together technical and vocational education with that which is traditionally considered academic.

In this vision, I emphasised the need for people to be free to embark on the type of education that suits them, at any time that is right for them. This means embedding flexibility at the heart of the system and enhancing the portability of qualifications – to allow for the ‘step-on step-off’ approach that many people need.

I was convinced then that we should build bridges to make this happen. And I am pleased now to see how my ambition to create a more fluid and joined-up post-18 education landscape that works for learners of every age has been reflected in the so-called Augar review.

And since this is my first speech since the Panel’s report was published last week, it’s only right that I thank Philip Augar and the independent Panel for their hard work over the past year and a half.

It isn’t easy being in the spotlight while working on recommendations that could transform the post-18 education landscape as we know it. And I know the sector has been watching closely to see what recommendations emerge about the future funding of provision.

I understand the anxieties.

Indeed, even before the report was released, I made clear my concerns over some of the initial leaks, such as the speculation over a three-‘D’ threshold to enter university.

And I’m pleased to see that proposal didn’t make the cut. If it had done so, it would have been completely regressive, and would have shut the door on opportunity for so many people whose lives are transformed by our world-leading universities and colleges.

But the recommendations from the report are now out there. And I’m keen to work with the higher education sector over the coming months to consult on the proposals and hear the different views.

One of the questions I’ll be addressing as part of this reflection period is what the report means for the future of the Arts and Humanities, and what it says about how we value these disciplines in society today? For my part, I’ve always been clear that high-quality education in a range of subjects is absolutely critical for our public services and is culturally enriching for our society.

But we must be careful not to confuse high-quality with high-value, for they are two different concepts, with two very different outcomes.

High Quality is something that we should all aspire to, whether in our work, our research, our teaching. Many universities and many courses already are world leading: you don’t need me to repeat the fact that four out of the top 10 global leading universities are in the UK, 18 in the top 100, but I will. For I want to see that figure rise even further over time.

I hope that our reforms to Higher Education, with the establishment of the Office for Students, which will be fully operational from 1 August this year, will help embed and achieve that focus on quality which must be continued. At the heart of the OfS’ mission will be to embed greater transparency within our HE system. Institutions will be held account both for their performance on access and participation, but they will also be accountable through the transparency duty that will provide more information than ever before.

At the same time, additional transparency comes in the form of the Longitudinal Education Outcomes Data, which after a decade, is beginning to bring forward tranches of data from students who graduated back in 2008. I fully understand the importance of data on the returns of higher education. It’s through this that we’ll continue to improve and maintain the high quality and standards we have become known for across the globe. And I’m pleased to announce the data advisory committee I set up to support me will be meeting formally with me for the first time next month.

However, I also understand that data, in its current form, cannot measure everything. And until we have found a way to capture the vital contribution that degrees of social value make to our society – degrees like Nursing or Social Care – then we risk overlooking the true value of these subjects. The same goes for the Arts and Humanities.

Although some people around us may argue that the contribution of these disciplines to society may be less tangible, their influence is all around us.

I challenge the critics to imagine a world without art, without music, without literature. Without people who can think outside the box or challenge ideas.

All this comes from the critical thinking that knowing about different cultures, philosophies and languages provides us.

It is a product of a centuries old understanding of the liberal arts, and how they can shape minds for the future. What might be ‘low value’ to one man, might to others represent money well spent on acquiring knowledge for its own sake, expanding one’s cultural horizons, learning to empathise and reflect upon the human condition, applying it to the challenges for the future.

There is a place for knowing which subjects have the potential to generate higher salaries in the future– not least for those students who want to make sure they make the right choice of subject and institution for them. For those who wish to know this information, it is also important to highlight the economic benefits of studying creative subjects too.

And, actually, the story isn’t all negative for those studying creative subjects. The latest Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data show us that women studying creative arts, in particular, can expect to earn around 9% more on average than women who don’t go into higher education at all. And the highest returning creative arts course can significantly increase female earnings by around 79%. So, a creative education can certainly be the right choice for a number of people.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all, our Industrial Strategy recognises the importance of the Creative Sector in the UK economy, as being an absolutely vital one.

My government has sought to invest in that sector, providing film tax credits for example to encourage films such as Star Wars or the series Game of Thrones to be filmed here. These fantastic billion dollar industries have chosen the UK as their destination of choice because we have chosen to make a commitment to the arts for the present.

Since becoming a Minister seven months ago, I have sought to demonstrate our continued commitment to the arts and humanities through our Industrial Strategy, not just for the present but for the future also.

As I said back in January, these subjects are “the very disciplines that make our lives worth living”. They enable us to think critically and communicate. They give us a moral compass by which to live. They boost our appreciation of beauty. And they help us make sense of where we have come from and, indeed, where we are heading to. That’s why I set out early on that “the last thing I want to see is value judgements emerging which falsely divide the Sciences and Engineering from the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.”

In fact, some of you may have noticed that I even used my first speech to push the parameters of my job description somewhat.

In it, I declared that “although I am officially Minister for Science, I take great pride in wanting to be Minister for the Arts and Humanities as well – disciplines which enrich our culture and society, and have an immeasurable impact on our health and wellbeing”.

And I have stood firmly by that conviction.

It wasn’t without coincidence that I gave my first speech at RADA – one of the oldest and most prestigious centres of dramatic art training in the UK.

And it certainly hasn’t been unintentional that I have visited several specialist creative arts institutions as part of my ongoing tour of the UK higher education sector.

In the thirty-or-so institutions I have visited to date, I’ve seen first-hand the value that the Arts and Humanities bring – not just to the students studying these disciplines, but also to the wider UK society.

In my first month in the job, I spoke to Technical Theatre students at St Mary’s University Twickenham, who had chosen to take two-year, accelerated degrees specifically to allow them faster access to specialist jobs in our world-leading dramatic arts sector.

I’ve sat down with students at Ravensbourne University to talk about their passion for fashion and the creative arts. And they told me how their studies have opened up opportunities for them, which they otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed of.

When I went over to Ulster University, I saw for myself how graduates in the arts are supporting Northern Ireland’s growing creative industries cluster – famous for film and TV productions like Game of Thrones, Derry Girls and The Fall.

And closer to home in London, I’ve met students on photography courses at London South Bank University, which lead to near 100% graduate employment.

I’ve spoken to students from across the globe at the Royal Academy of Music, who have come here to study and learn, thanks to the world-class reputation of our conservatoires.

And, most recently, I’ve seen one of the UK’s most successful institution-led business incubators – which is not at a scientific or large research-intensive university as you might expect. But is actually to be found at the Royal College of Art, where it is nurturing high-value businesses and attracting worldwide investment.

What I’ve learnt from my visits so far is that the Arts and Humanities are absolutely vital to our nation’s success and prosperity – not just in terms of transforming the lives of those that study them, and enhancing their future prospects. But bolstering our economy and putting the UK firmly on the map as world leaders in creative education.

I can certainly see how the arts and culture contribute more than £10.8 billion GVA to the UK economy – a figure published by the Creative Industries Federation just last month.

And I can certainly understand why prospective students from around the world are looking to come to the UK for a truly world-leading education – one which embraces creativity, design and critical thinking as part and parcel of the course. Recently we launched our International Education Strategy, setting for the first time an ambition to ensure that we have 600,000 international students studying in the UK by 2030.

I’ve held many bilateral meetings with education ministers from across the globe over these past six months, most recently holding several round tables with countries ranging from Egypt to Thailand: it has been striking to observe that what they most admire about the UK Higher Education system is not only its quality, but its ability to produce graduates with deeply ingrained critical thinking skills- skills which we know are the essence of a humanities education.

The Arts and Humanities are not just powerful disciplines in their own right.

They have the potential to help other disciplines, sectors and industries to do so much more as well. And we should be harnessing this power now, for the good of our society, as well as for our future health and prosperity.

It was exactly this sentiment that I put forward in a speech I gave a couple of months ago at a joint British Academy and Royal Society event to mark the 60th anniversary of C. P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” lecture. In it, I reflected on how far I have come in my own personal appreciation of the different disciplines – having started out in the Arts and Humanities as a Tudor historian, but having had the enormous privilege in this job to learn so much more about the Natural and Physical Sciences as well. And, specifically, what can be achieved when the Arts and Sciences – or the “two cultures – combine.

And I’ve since seen the power of this myself in my own work.

As you’ll probably know, my most recent book tells the story of Richard III and his threefold role as brother, protector, king.

Through studying original manuscripts – in the way a historian knows how – I follow his life through to the bitter end, where he was killed by Henry VII’s forces at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

However, I realise that’s not the only way of approaching Richard III’s story.

Just last month, on a visit to Aston University, I was lucky enough to meet Professor Sarah Hainsworth – Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Now, you’re probably wondering what a Tudor historian and a forensic engineer have in common!

But what if I tell you that among Sarah’s many accomplishments is her experience in helping to establish the exact manner of King Richard III’s death?

After Richard III’s skeleton was discovered in Leicester in 2012, Sarah used her forensic expertise to analyse the wound marks found on his bones. And she was able to confirm he was indeed killed by a sword or a battle-axe spike that was thrust four inches into his head.

In total, her team confirmed Richard III suffered eleven wounds around the time of his death – nine to his skull and two to the rest of his body.

Now, I admit that’s perhaps a bit too much unexpected grim detail for a lecture on the value of the Arts and Humanities. But the point is, while my approach through historical scholarship can provide colour to Richard III’s life, it is Sarah’s approach through the Sciences and Engineering that can confirm the facts and the harsh realities of his death.

But both approaches complement each other enormously.

Without the wider meaningful narrative that I’ve been able to provide through traditional scholarship in the antiquaries, Sarah’s findings would be just a static fact. A clinical diagnosis, detached from the wider history of that period.

Yet, without Sarah’s scientific validation of Richard III’s death, my narrative account would remain hearsay, or a version of the truth as yet unproven.

So, what we’re seeing here is the two disciplines coming together and working in unison to enhance our understanding of the past.

And this merger of the “two cultures” has other benefits too.

Today, we live in a world where around 50% of the UK population have a degree by the time they are 30. Still not enough in my opinion, and certainly not enough if we are to compete as a knowledge economy for the future internationally.

As Universities Minister, I’m keen that nobody is deterred from pursuing a particular discipline just because it appears that studying it isn’t for people like them.

This is a principle, which applies equally to the Arts and Humanities as it does to Science and Engineering. Thankfully, one mitigating factor to this is the fact that our disciplinary landscape is continually evolving. And there can be no doubt that, over time, traditional disciplinary boundaries have become more blurred, and subject definitions far more elastic.

As technology has developed and time has moved on, new subjects have emerged out of old ones. Interdisciplinary studies have become far more commonplace. And multi-disciplinary approaches have become more desired – not just within academia itself, but by businesses, industry and government.

Part of this is down to our recognition of the fact that we have to tackle the world’s grand challenges now, before it’s too late. And these challenges, themselves, are not constrained within individual disciplinary boundaries. Indeed, the grand challenges we face today are formed at the intersection of the traditional disciplines – where the Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences meet.

How can we ensure that as we live longer, we can continue to live well and healthily?

In our ambition to tackle global warming and reduce our use of carbon, how can we adapt life around the home to reach a net-zero target?

As our cities become more populated, how can we sustain a transport ecosystem that is both clean and improves the mobility of the population to increase economic growth?

The solutions to these challenges can only be met when we bring together our cultural, political, economic and technological know-how.

That’s why we have an added imperative, now, in 2019, not just to recognise the value of individual disciplines in their own right, but to see their potential to achieve great things when combined.

I always point to the success of the UK video games industry as a case in point.

The UK games industry is a relatively new sector but one which is already at the heart of the UK’s creative industries powerhouse – generating over £1.5 billion for the UK economy each year.

And all this is powered by the coming together of different disciplines. By the fusing together of different types of knowledge. By the bringing together of the best of the Sciences and the Arts.

To create a successful video game, it doesn’t just take good coders and computer programmers. But it takes the input of psychologists and anthropologists to understand the needs and drivers of the user. And it takes musicians, artists and storytellers to draw the user in, to create powerful narratives and to make the game attractive.

That’s why recently we announced our £34 million ‘Audience of the Future’ investment in twelve ground breaking immersive entertainment projects that seek to combine the latest technology in augmented and virtual reality with new methods of crafting narratives, to reach out to new audiences. This has included an investment in Aardman Animations teaming up with the gaming company Tiny Rebel, to produce an immersive story telling experience which will be told around key locations in Bristol.

For innovation doesn’t just need to happen in technology and science: the same must be the case for the arts and humanities also.

But it is the joint application of the humanities with emerging technologies that will also further innovation. The big technology brands of our time have long known this.

Take Apple for instance.

Apple’s success doesn’t just rest on its state-of-the-art technology. But its appeal lies equally in its design and artistry. The physical feel of its products.

And as Apple’s founder, the late Steve Jobs, once said:

“Technology alone is not enough… It is technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities that yields the results that make our heart sing”.

But the interweaving of the Sciences and the Arts is not just something that exists for our own entertainment and aesthetics. Or for our own gratification and pleasure.

And this isn’t about simply turning STEM into STEAM for the sake of it. The Arts and Humanities cannot be added, as some kind of adjunct, to the sciences.

I passionately believe that they must run in parallel, a horizontal thread across all scientific disciplines that helps to inform, explain and evaluate.

After all, all technological advance has the same subject at its fore: the human.

The Arts and Humanities are also what makes science ‘useable’. It’s no good developing a cure for a pandemic like Ebola, for example, if you don’t have the anthropologists, the linguists or the lawyers to make the science work on the ground. To bring the product to market. To win the trust of the people.

And at a time when trust in knowledge and expertise is constantly threatened by the lapping tides of populism, we need the humanities more than ever to be able to reach out and communicate the value of science and research more than ever.

That also means thinking very differently about how we invest in research for the future.

The government is committed to investing 2.4% of GDP, both public and private in research and development by 2027. That investment would simply allow us to stand still, at the OECD average. I’ve been making a series of speeches on how we can achieve this target, and what needs to be done to make real the scale of investment for the future.

This includes investing in the researchers of tomorrow, the people who we actually need to do the research on the ground, estimated at some 260,000 extra researchers.

Now not all these will be in universities. Indeed, as some of the examples I have used reflect, much cutting edge research is taking place in the industries of the future, the animation studios, the games companies, the tech spin outs who we need to foster.

But we need to adapt our own approach to research grants and investment if we are to reflect how the modern world of research operates.

That’s why I was delighted that the AHRC is formally awarding the National Trust the status of a Independent Research Organisation. This recognises the excellence of the Trust’s current research and is a major step towards the charity’s ambition to embed research at the heart of all its activities.

New ways of doing research, particularly by reflecting upon the merger of disciplines is vital if we are to stand any chance of meeting the huge environmental, societal and technological challenges of the future I’ve just mentioned. The Government’s Industrial Strategy sets out these “grand challenges”. And tackling them is seen as key to improving our productivity and improving people’s lives – not just in this country but right across the world.

The first four of these grand challenges are focused on the global trends that will transform our future, and include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data, ageing society, clean growth, and the future of mobility.

And all of these issues are central to my own role in government – not just under my science, research and innovation brief, but also as part of my new role as Interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, where I am proud to lead the charge to reduce emissions, decarbonise our economy and invest in renewable technologies.

To do all these things and more, we need the Arts, Humanities and Sciences to work together – to help us seize the benefits that new technologies will bring and to help us mitigate risks along the way. Take AI, in particular.

If we’re going to continue to push forward the frontiers of knowledge in this area then we’re going to have to work across all the disciplines – not only to enable us to unlock its full potential, but to ensure we are developing and deploying this new technology ethically – with consideration to others and the world around us. We have already witnessed the horrors that can occur when science becomes detached from ethics and the moral compass the Arts and Humanities provide.

From the human experiments in Nazi concentration camps. To the dropping of the atomic bomb. Post-war science has had to learn the hard way from these abuses of humanity.

That’s why the modern-day pursuit of knowledge has collaboration at its core – not simply to allow us to easily exchange ideas with one another, across borders and across disciplines, but to ensure the principle of humanity is firmly embedded at the heart of our research. To prevent us repeating the mistakes of our past. And to make sure we learn the lessons from history.

That’s why I welcome the focus on the humanities as part of the EU’s new Horizon Europe Science Programme for 2021-2027, for it seeks to embed the humanities and the role they play in scientific discovery for the future. It is my ambition that we associate as fully as possible into Horizon Europe, to be able to play our role in shaping the future of Western Civilisation for the twenty first century.

In the world of science diplomacy, we need to re-evaluate and re-think our role on the global stage. That’s why I published last month the UK’s first International Research and Innovation Strategy, setting out our global ambitions for new research partnerships and collaborations.

These collaborations aren’t simply about marrying scientific excellence, important though that is. They are based around recognising our responsibility in the world to the future sustainability of our planet, and the development of some of the poorest countries in the world.

Working to ensure that innovation and invention are purposed to the benefit of all humanity. That is a mission which I believe is an ethical one, that doesn’t place profit at the top of its agenda, or seek to advance the power of one state above another.

Instead we seek to shape a new international science and research agenda, shaped around sustainable development goals, for a shared future prosperity, improving the condition of all human beings. That is an agenda that has the humanities at its heart.

And it is the inclusion of the humanities, running like a golden thread through all scientific collaborations and projects that will protect the future of Western science, maintaining its focus on excellence, but excellence for a human purpose.

The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences have always been central to the way we ‘do’ science in our post-war world. Ensuring all the time that we understand the repercussions of the technology we’re developing. And making sure we don’t forget what happened when we abused it in our dark past.

A world without the Arts and Humanities would not just be a sad and boring world. It would be a completely dysfunctional world. A world without progress. And a world where ideas could never get off the page. A world without the Arts and Humanities would also be a very poor world. The creative sector is not just a booming part of the UK economy in its own right, but it’s also the backbone to many other sectors and industries – providing the creative talent that bring products and services to life.

And for as long as we remain global leaders in creative education, the Arts and Humanities are what are going to strengthen our country’s place on the world stage. To ensure we remain the go-to place for students, entrepreneurs and business leaders the world over.

That’s why, as Minister for the Arts and Humanities, I’m determined to promote the strength of these disciplines as we move forward into the future. And I’ll be doing all I can to endorse their place in our world-class higher education sector, as well as our society at large.

Thank you.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Statement on the Competitiveness Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, in the House of Commons on 22 May 2019.

The Internal Market and Industry Day of the Competitiveness Council will take place on 27 May 2019. Katrina Williams, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, will represent the UK.

The Research and Space Day of the Competitiveness Council will take place on 28 May 2019. Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, will represent the UK.

Day one—Internal Market and Industry

The Internal Market and Industry Day will consider a number of non-legislative items, including a competitiveness “check-up”. Attendees will be asked to debate and agree the adoption of conclusions on “a new level of ambition for a competitive single market” and “an EU industrial policy strategy: a vision for 2030”. This will be followed by the adoption of “conclusions on the competitiveness of the tourism sector as a driver for sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion in the EU for the next decade”.​

Under any other business, there will be updates on the following current legislative proposals: (a) the directive on cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions; (b) the directive on the modernisation of the EU consumer protection rules; (c) the directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers; and (d) the regulation on the general safety of vehicles.

The presidency with also provide information on better regulation and the forum dedicated to the auto industry. Finally, the Finnish delegation will provide information on the work programme of the incoming Finnish presidency.

Day two—Research and Space

The Research and Space Day of the Competitiveness Council will begin with a session on space, during which the Council will hold a policy debate on “strengthening Europe’s role as a global actor and promoting international co-operation, space diplomacy and contributing to building the global space governance”.

The Competitiveness Council will then break for the 280th European Space Agency (ESA) Council where the UK, as an ESA member state, will vote on the ESA resolution “space as an enabler”. The Council will then reconvene for the 9th EU-ESA Space Council where there will be an exchange of views and adoption of conclusions on “space as an enabler”.

The research session will start with a policy debate concerning “research and innovation as a driving force for a more competitive European Union”. Finally, the Finnish delegation will provide information on the work programme of the incoming Finnish presidency.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Speech on Research Talent

Below is the text of the speech  made by Chris Skidmore, the Science Minister, at the LSE in London on 7 May 2019.

Good morning. I’m delighted to be here at the LSE today. This is the first in a series of four speeches on how I believe the UK can best achieve our ambition to invest 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027. And, later, 3%.

This is an important target, and one which sits firmly at the heart of this government’s Industrial Strategy and our aim to make the UK the most innovative country in the world.

Achieving this goal is going to require significant investment. In 2017, the UK spent almost £35bn on research and development – or R&D – representing just under 1.7% of GDP.

To achieve our target of 2.4%, total UK R&D investment would need to rise to around £60bn in today’s money. More than double our current investment levels. This would require us to have invested an additional sum of over £80bn cumulatively each year from 2017 across the public and private sectors.

But we are on the right track. This government has pledged to increase spending on R&D activities by £7bn over 5 years by 2022. This represents the largest increase this country has seen in R&D investment in nearly 40 years.

And as Minister for research and innovation, I will be making the case for this investment to continue as we approach the comprehensive spending review.

This case is made easier by the fact that we are already quite good at maximising our returns on R&D investment. Despite being home to just 0.9% of the world’s population, the UK hosts more than 4% of the world’s researchers; we have three of the world’s top ten universities; and we produce more than 15% of the world’s most cited research articles.

The UK really is one of the most innovative countries in the world and rightly deserves its title as an ‘innovation leader’, having scored 21% above the EU average in the 2018 European Innovation Scoreboard.

Maintaining and strengthening this position in the face of growing international competition will be key to our success over the years ahead. So, in the course of this series of speeches, I want to take us back to first principles and unpick, bit by bit, what achieving our 2.4% target really means. And in my first speech on this topic this morning, I want to move us away from our usual focus on money and investment, and turn our attentions instead to the people we are going to need to make our ambition a reality.

After all, it doesn’t matter how much money we pump into R&D over the years ahead. It won’t make the intended difference if we don’t have the right people in place. People to perform the ground-breaking research of tomorrow. People to develop world-leading innovations. And people to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

Ensuring a strong pipeline of talent will be essential for bolstering the UK’s research prowess. This means making sure we have the required number of scientists, researchers and technical support staff to support our pioneering R&D efforts.

The fact of the matter is, if we need to increase R&D spending by more than double our current investment levels by 2027, then we are also going to have to substantially increase the numbers of people we have working in R&D in the same period – perhaps by as much as 50%.

To put that in figures, that means we need to find at least another 260,000 researchers to work in R&D across universities, across business and across industry.

This is a big ask. So, we need to stop and ask some serious questions: where are these highly-skilled scientists, researchers and technicians going to come from? And what are we going to do, not only to tempt people to embark on a career in UK research, but also to get them to stay here and make the most of their talents and expertise?

These are the questions that I want us to address this morning.

Nurturing homegrown talent

As it stands at present, the UK is the third largest producer of PhDs in the world. However, much of that is down to our ability to attract and educate talent from across the globe. When it comes to educating our own students to PhD level, we know we need to do much more. Both to encourage undergraduates to stay on for postgraduate-level study – and to address the gender imbalances and race disparities that continue to haunt the research profession.

Of course, we’re continuing to make progress in these areas. The number of women accepted on to full-time STEM undergraduate courses has increased by almost 30% – largely thanks to the number of girls taking STEM A-Levels in England increasing by over 25% since 2010. But the proportion of women studying Physics is still notably lower than it should be.

And we still have some way to go to eradicate gender pay gaps in the sector and increase the proportion of women in academic and research leadership. Not to mention the number of Black and Ethnic Minority role models that will inspire others and show them a research career can really be for people like them.

As a government, we are thinking hard about the financial incentives that will also encourage more people to continue in higher education and research.

Not only do we have a comprehensive student support system for students embarking on higher education across the UK. But, for students supporting their own postgraduate studies, we introduced Master’s loans in 2016. And these are already having a visible effect on the number of students opting to stay on for postgraduate education.

Research commissioned by the Department for Education into the performance of the Master’s loan in its first year of operation has found the number of England-domiciled students opting to study for a Master’s degree at English universities grew by over a third (36%) in the academic year 2016/17.

It also found that these loans have led to a significant increase in the number of Black students to study for a Master’s degree, a group historically under-represented in postgraduate education. Additionally, almost three quarters of the students surveyed who took out a loan said that they just couldn’t have studied without one. This is welcome evidence that the loan is helping remove financial barriers and supporting individuals from all backgrounds to study for an advanced qualification.

And loans were extended to those studying at doctoral level from August 2018. Where we hope they will have a similar effect.

Attracting international talent

But as well as developing domestic talent, I want us to attract the best and the brightest from across the globe.

As Universities and Science Minister, I am immensely proud that the UK boasts one of the strongest higher education sectors in the world. That it is home to many of the world’s leading universities and research institutes. This is a great national asset and a major draw for international talent.

And this government is serious about making the UK their global go-to place. That’s why we set out a clear ambition in our International Education Strategy earlier this spring: to grow the numbers of international students studying in UK universities to 600,000 by the end of the next decade.

Many of these students will be studying here at the postgraduate level, for Master’s degrees or PhDs. And we will introduce an automatic one-year ‘leave to remain’ period following the completion of all doctoral degrees.

This will give international PhD graduates the time they need to find an appropriate research position after their studies – whether that be by continuing as post-docs or early career researchers in our universities and colleges. Or by taking their skills over to industry and bringing their ideas and innovations to market.

On this, we are making it easier for international graduates to move into skilled work. International students studying for undergraduate level and above will be able to apply for a visa three months before their course finishes. Enabling them to take up skilled work after their degree. They will also be able to apply for a skilled work visa out-of-country under the same preferential conditions as they would experience if they were to apply for a visa in-country.

In addition, a reformed sponsorship system will provide a simplified and more streamlined system. This will be less burdensome for employers and will enable businesses to harness the talent they need more easily.

We are also investing in more international experiences for our own UK students. This will help develop them as ‘global citizens’, and ensure students of all backgrounds can add to our pipeline of talent on their return.

International experiences enrich the education and personal development of our citizens, not to mention break down barriers to social mobility. That is why I was delighted to announce new DfE funding that will support UK undergraduate students from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds to take part in short research internships at Canadian universities through the Mitacs Globalink scheme.

And I hope this is just the first partnership of many to help boost opportunities for UK research talent going forwards into the future.

As a government, we want to be doing all we can to protect and grow our share of research talent. And we are serious about working together with the sector to ensure we are giving early career researchers, regardless of where they come from, sufficient opportunities for progression.

Funding PHDs and other programmes

But if we are to attract, retain and develop the research talent we need – both domestic and international – we must ensure we have the programmes we need too.

And we have invested significantly in programmes, delivered by UKRI and the National Academies, to make sure this is the case. In 2017, we announced funding of over £300m over four years to increase the number of PhDs and fellowship programmes.

We have committed more than £100m to the Rutherford Fund to deliver around 1,000 fellowships and placements for early-career and senior researchers.

And, in June 2018, we announced a £1.3bn investment in UK talent and skills to grow and attract the best in science and innovation. As well as £350million for prestigious National Academy fellowships. This included £900million for the new flagship UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, open to the very best researchers from around the world.

Well, today I am pleased to announce the very first 41 Future Leaders Fellowships. Who will be provided with funding and support. And who will be instrumental in developing the next generation of research and innovations in their chosen disciplines – from the natural environment to big physics.

It’s an incredibly exciting programme and I am delighted to have been able to announce the Fellows today.

And I am just as excited to announce a first call for the new Stephen Hawking Fellowships. Working with the Hawking family, UKRI will support up to 50 postdoctoral scientists in theoretical physics over the next five years. In recognition of Professor Hawking’s exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science. This call is now open. And I would encourage anyone eligible to apply.

Because we need to ensure the very brightest minds are in a position to help us address the huge environmental, social and technological challenges the world is facing today.

That is why we’re focused on supporting highly-skilled people across disciplines to tackle these issues – what, in our Industrial Strategy we have called our Grand Challenges – from Artificial Intelligence to Clean Growth.

In the field of AI, we have recently announced a package of measures. Including Master’s degrees, funded by industry. Alongside an additional 1,000 new PhD students across 16 dedicated AI Centres for Doctoral Training. And new Turing AI Fellowships. The first wave of fellowships was launched earlier this year as part of a scheme designed to attract, develop and retain global AI talent in the UK.

Boosting researchers’ skills and success

But success in research isn’t just about knowing your subject inside out – though undoubtedly this is essential. It’s about other skills and experiences too, particularly when making the move from academia to industry. And we need to encourage these if we are to create the UK research environment we want to see in the future.

Between six and seven thousand PhD students per year are funded through UKRI, through its studentships and training grants – including Centres for Doctoral Training and Doctoral Training Partnerships. These models allow students to be trained in cohort environments and take a collaborative approach. Working with partners – including from industry – to create well-rounded researchers who are able to continue and pursue R&D careers.

Recent investments in Centres for Doctoral Training will support more than four and a half thousand PhD students, in fields from quantum, to medical technologies.

I was particularly pleased last month to see the University of Liverpool leading an innovative new project worth almost four and a half million pounds to boost the success of post-doctoral researchers outside academia. The ‘Prosper’ project is funded largely by Research England and other industry partners. It seeks to break down the barriers facing early career researchers when moving from careers in academia to industry.

Because, to make it in industry, as well as having specialist technical knowledge, today’s researchers need core transferable skills – things like an ability to communicate effectively, to influence, and to work collaboratively.

The Prosper model seeks to give post-doctoral researchers the “soft skills” they need. And, so, should help them develop into the high-performing technical and business leaders of tomorrow.

I also know schemes like the Brilliant Club, whose founders I met earlier this spring, are doing highly valuable work. Not just in reaching out to school pupils from under-represented backgrounds to raise their aspirations. But also by training and developing doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to become highly effective communicators and leaders. These skills won’t just help them if they choose to stay on in education. They are vital for a whole host of business and industry careers too.

Towards better research careers

But as well as ensuring people have the skills they need to pursue a career in research, we need to ensure conditions are such that they want one. Currently, there are problems here.

According to research by Vitae, over 70% of post-doctoral research staff in higher education are employed on fixed-term contracts, with 20% employed on contracts of a year or less.

Many researchers, especially at the early stages of their careers, can find themselves going from one short-term research contract to another, without any job security or, indeed, any inclination of where they might end up next.

It is this uncertainty and insecurity that drives many talented researchers out of academia and perhaps out of research altogether. And this is particularly true of female researchers, who are already under-represented in STEM disciplines and may be unable to realise their full potential.

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Admittedly, the Roberts Review back in 2002 did much to shine a light on the precarious nature of academic research careers. And thankfully, it led to many UK universities thinking seriously about how they employ and develop research talent.

In many respects, the UK has long been a world leader in this area – not least through its Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, first launched in 2008.

However, with more researchers needed in the future to power our national R&D ambitions, now is the time to increase our support for researchers. And to look again at how we can ensure they have a healthy and attractive working environment in which all researchers can flourish.

I am pleased that an independent review of the Concordat has just taken place to ensure it is up-to-date to meet the needs of today’s researchers. And I look forward to seeing the revised version of the Concordat when it is published later this summer.

As Universities and Science Minister, I am serious about taking the Concordat forward. And I am pleased to be hosting a high-level meeting with the Chair of the Concordat Strategy Group, Professor Julia Buckingham. Alongside Sir Patrick Vallance and other key sector leaders, to discuss how we can further improve research careers in the UK.

I have said it before and I will say it again today: I am keen that postgraduates and early career researchers do not get lost from current and future policy debates – particularly around key issues like mental health and wellbeing.

Post-docs are increasingly the Cinderella of the academic community – being neither students nor conventional academic staff members. So, their stories often go unheard and their concerns unaddressed.

Yet, these are the people who are often juggling job insecurities with poor work-life balance. And all against a culture that many feel prevents them from speaking out and admitting their struggles – for fear they will be perceived as weak and not fit for the job at hand.

Our current research culture relies on dominant power structures, where doctoral candidates and post-docs are largely dependent on supervisors or PIs for references and progression. This puts the power firmly in other people’s hands.

Is it any wonder, then, that less than half of doctoral researchers report they would be likely to disclose any mental health and wellbeing issues to their supervisors? This closed culture urgently needs to change.

So, I hope future joint work by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England into the mental health and wellbeing of doctoral researchers can identify good practice to take forward in this area.

I also encourage the OfS, Research England, and UKRI as a whole to look more widely at how the implementation of current policies affect researchers on the ground. The three higher education excellence frameworks – namely the REF, TEF and the KEF – are all integral to the way we govern and fund higher education, science, research and innovation. But we need to make sure they are not disproportionately affecting early career researchers and putting extra strains on their work. The recent headlines about universities spending around £87m on non-disclosure agreements since 2017 doesn’t help us to project an image of a sector that cares for its employees.

Non-disclosure agreements exist for many purposes – such as protecting valuable research findings should a staff member change jobs. But in no circumstances should they be used by universities to ‘gag’ staff after experiencing poor behaviour in the workplace, including bullying, discrimination or sexual misconduct.

Let me be clear. Any use of this sort of agreement to silence people or hide details of unfair practices is an outrage, and risks bringing the reputation of our world-leading higher education system into disrepute. Universities need to wake up to this fact and the very real threat it poses to the reputation of the sector.

The government has recently consulted on proposals to tighten the laws around NDAs and confidentiality clauses for workers. We will be publishing our final proposals in due course. These will make clear in law that victims of harassment cannot be prevented from speaking to the police or reporting a crime. And ensuring they are clear about their disclosure rights.

We need to take collective action now to stop the misuse of NDAs if we are to prevent any more talented people from being pushed out of academia. And the wider research pipeline.

That’s why I strongly support Universities UK in its call to sector leaders to make sure all staff and students have a safe experience at university.

As Minister across both the universities and science briefs, I am keen that we take a cross-departmental and cross-sector approach to the long-term career paths of researchers. And that we work together to tackle some of the systemic issues that are hampering the appeal of a research career, both inside and outside academia.

From academia to industry

On this, a key message I want to get across today is that academia isn’t the only place where talented researchers can have long and meaningful careers.

It is particularly important we recognise this, since very few highly-skilled researchers will stay within the academy.

Research by Vitae in 2017 showed that of the 80% of researchers in the UK who aspire to a future academic career, 60% expect to achieve one, yet only between 5 and 10% will actually ever get one.

But this doesn’t mean that the other 90% or so are not pursuing worthwhile research careers. Over 70% of doctoral graduates in the Physical Sciences and Engineering, for example, work outside academic research four years after graduation.

If we are to stand any chance of meeting our 2.4% target, then we need to make sure this continues and that talented researchers go on to use their knowledge and skills in business and industry.

We also need a good number of researchers embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and starting their own spin-outs and SMEs.

For too long, there has been a stigma in this country around pursuing non-academic research careers. So, we should never look down on early career researchers if they opt for a career outside academia. Rather, we should actively encourage our PhDs and post-docs to see the merits of pursuing an R&D career in other sectors and industries.

For one, we need to stop talking about jobs outside academia as being ‘second choice careers’ or ‘Plan B options’. For our 2.4% target to work, we need people to be actively considering research careers across the entire science and innovation system. And aspiring to become industry employees or entrepreneurs from the get-go.

And to do this I think we need to be positive and passionate about the hugely exciting potential of such work. About the role research – and particularly the point where business and research meet – will play be in helping us to adapt to our changing world.

I have already mentioned our Industrial Strategy “Grand Challenges” – the huge environmental, social and technological challenges the world is facing today. We want to make sure that the UK is leading the way in responding to these challenges.

This will require all of our best minds pushing frontiers of science and research and applying this into game-changing innovations and new ideas. This means helping researchers and academics connect better with businesses and supporting researchers to develop their own ideas. These businesses could become the industries of tomorrow. And it makes it a hugely exciting time to work in industry as a researcher.

But it’s not just about meeting challenges. It’s about meeting the needs of business. We know from the Employer Skills Survey that employers in the UK report a persistent demand for graduates with STEM skills. And we anticipate this demand will only continue to grow over the years ahead.

Across numerous sectors, employers report a significant demand for highly-skilled professionals, especially in IT and Engineering. As well as a need for staff with complex numerical and statistical skills. It may surprise you to hear that over 60% of roles on the Home Office shortage list are STEM roles – primarily seeking either Engineering or digital expertise.

So, isn’t it high time we start to better connect graduates with the evident skills gaps we are experiencing right across our labour market?

Yet, this isn’t going to be easy when many of their main role models inside universities know very little about careers in industry. And are themselves either unaware or unconvinced of the strength of research positions outside academia.

There are schemes that aim to address this issue – such as the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Visiting Professors scheme. This funds senior industry practitioners to participate in course development, face-to-face teaching and the mentoring of Engineering undergraduates at a host university. It is a great programme, but it is not widespread practice.

The difficulties aren’t just on the side of universities. Some employers are unused to recruiting PhDs and don’t fully understand the benefits that those with higher academic qualifications can bring to their workforce. I think of this as the ‘graduate paradox’ – the higher the academic qualifications you have, the less professionally qualified you may seem. This, I feel, is a particular UK problem we need to address.

For too long we have had a culture in this country that doesn’t generally recognise, let alone reward, PhDs outside academia. But this is not the case in other European countries. In Germany, for instance, a PhD is often seen as a prerequisite for progression to senior roles in business and industry.

Yet, here in the UK, people with hard-won PhDs sometimes choose to hide their doctoral qualifications when applying for professional roles outside academia. And many can find themselves having to spell out to sceptical employers the skills and experiences they have gained during the course of their studies.

To get people thinking differently we urgently need to change mind-sets. And to boost the appreciation of postgraduate degrees among employers and wider society.

We need a culture change right across the innovation system. Not just among academics to get them to realise the transfer-ability of their research skills. But among employers – so that they, too, can make it easier for researchers to make the transition into industry-based roles.

Academic research and industry research should never be two distinct entities. There should be transferable pathways between the two. So those with industry-experience are welcomed into academia for their ‘on the job’ knowledge later in their careers. And those with academic experience can venture into industry and back again at any time they choose.

Changes such as this will help keep international researchers in UK R&D long after they have graduated. And also help to boost the numbers of domestic students choosing to stay on for postgraduate degrees and research careers.

As I have argued today, this will be vital to achieving our long-term aim: boosting the numbers of researchers in this country by more than 50%, to cement our R&D success.

Retaining domestic and international talent.

Funding the programmes we need.

Boosting skills.

Improving careers.

And strengthening the links between industry and the academy.

These are the ways we will nurture the talent we need now to meet the challenges ahead. To give the economy the boost it needs. And to help adapt to our changing world.

Thank you.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Statement on Tuition Fees for EU Students

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, in the House of Commons on 29 April 2019.

The Government have repeatedly made it clear that we absolutely value international exchange and collaboration in education and training as part of our vision for a global Britain. We believe that the UK and European countries should continue to give young people and students the chance to benefit from each other’s world-leading universities post exit.

Over the weekend, the media reported on a leaked Cabinet document discussing Government policy on EU student access to finance products for the 2020-21 academic year and beyond. At this time, I want to tell the House that no decision has yet been made on the continued access to student finance for EU students. Discussions at Cabinet level are ongoing and should remain confidential. I will make no comment on this apparent leak, which is deeply regrettable.

Students from the EU make a vital contribution to the university sector. It is testament to the quality and reputation of our higher education system that so many students from abroad choose to come and study here. As I stated earlier, since 2017 EU student numbers are up 3.8% and non-EU student numbers are up by 4.9%. In July 2018, we announced that students from the European Union starting courses in England in the 2019-20 academic year will continue to be eligible for home fees status, which means that they will be charged the same tuition fees as UK students and have access to tuition fee loans for the duration of their studies. Applications for students studying in academic year 2020-21 open in September 2019 and the Government will provide sufficient notice for prospective EU students and the wider higher education sector on fee arrangements ahead of the 2020-21 academic year and the subsequent years, which, as I have just stated, will obviously reflect our future relationship with European Union and the negotiations on that going forward.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Statement on Education Technology Strategy

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, in the House of Commons on 3 April 2019.

Education technology (EdTech) refers to the practice of using technology to support teaching and the effective day-to-day running of education institutions. Technology has become embedded throughout society and yet the use of technology in education is mixed. There is potential for technology to play a stronger role in helping to address some of the key challenges in education.

The Department for Education has developed an education technology strategy “Realising the potential of technology in Education: A strategy for education providers and the technology sector”. The strategy aims to support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload, fosters efficiencies, removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in education outcomes. It includes support to promote a vibrant EdTech business sector in the UK to provide proven, high-quality products that meet the needs of educators and fosters a pipeline of fresh ideas.

At the core of the strategy is an understanding that the use of technology does not provide a panacea, but when used well, it can be highly effective in helping to deliver improvements and tackle challenges throughout education. The strategy marks the development of a partnership between the education sector, the technology industry and the Government to drive further progress in the use of education technology for schools, further education, higher education and other providers and announces a new leadership group to take this forward.

The strategy makes clear how we intend to build upon existing good practice in the sector through launching a network of EdTech demonstrator schools and colleges across the country. The demonstrator schools and colleges will help showcase the possibilities for technology and will facilitate peer-to-peer learning about the good use of technology to help address challenges facing teachers, leaders and students, be this funding, teacher workloads, meeting the needs of pupils with special needs or more generally to help support teachers to deliver excellent teaching.

It also makes clear that Government will help address the barriers facing education providers and the technology industry, through:

Helping schools to secure the broadband and networking infrastructure they need through accelerating the roll-out of full fibre internet connectivity to schools and providing guidance.

Supporting the creation of opportunities for teachers and school leaders to improve their skills and knowledge about good use of technology through creating opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and through supporting partner organisations to provide free online CPD courses and free nationwide roadshows showcasing products, services and good practice.​
Improving support for procurement of technology, including exploring how to facilitate a better online marketplace for EdTech including through pre-negotiated buying deals, and supporting a digital service allowing schools to try products before they buy.

Helping education providers and the technology industry understand the privacy, security and data guidance and standards they should adhere to.

Helping the education technology industry to understand the full range of support available to them to help grow and scale their business through the Government’s industrial strategy.

Improving the digital services that the Department for Education itself provides.

The strategy also announces 10 challenges to educationists and the technology industry. These cover areas where we think there is real potential for technology to make a difference and where we are seeking to galvanise activity, promote innovation and to prove whether or not technology has the potential to deliver positive outcomes. This includes the use of technology in assessment, administration, learning throughout life, teaching practice and continuing professional development. We will deliver the challenges through research, competitions to promote innovation by industry and the development of test bed schools and colleges.

This strategy marks the start of creating a technology revolution in education in England. We know that delivering this vision will take time, but we are committed to working in partnership with education and industry to deliver this vision.

I will deposit a copy of the strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Speech to UUKi Higher Education Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, to the UUKi Higher Education Forum on 27 March 2019.

Good afternoon. And thank you for inviting me to speak at this year’s International Higher Education Forum here at Imperial College London on the importance of staying international. Please accept my apologies for not joining you in person. And all credit to the organisers – this Forum is certainly timely! We are now just a few weeks away from the UK’s departure from the EU. So, it is certainly important for us to be looking to the future and considering our relationships with the wider world.

Let me begin today by reaffirming our commitment to remaining international. Brexit may well mean that we are leaving the European Union soon, but it certainly does not mean that we are leaving Europe or, indeed, any of our global partnerships behind.

If anything, Brexit means we now need to be thinking and acting more globally than ever before. Our world-leading universities and colleges are international at their core. Our higher education sector relies on – and indeed thrives on – international connectivity, collaboration and partnership, and I want to see all those things continuing to flourish.

As it stands politically, we still wish to have a deal with the European Union, guaranteeing certainty until the end of the Implementation Period and continuing to participate in the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 framework programme until then, while negotiating the terms of our Future Economic Partnership.

But we do face the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal. This is not what we want, but if it were to happen Government would be determined to make the best of it, continuing with our ‘no deal’ preparations and ensuring the country is prepared for every eventuality. As I said before, this does not mean we are leaving Europe and Europe will always remain a close partner to the UK. In the event of a no deal, and in order to mitigate the worst, we will administer the Government Guarantee for those participating in Erasmus+ and the Horizon 2020 framework programme.

However, what is certain for all of us is that we still need clarity on our future direction of travel, and we all need to come together – the Government included – to set out a positive vision for what we want UK higher education to achieve on the global stage.

There must be principles to underpin that vision, and to inform how and where we prioritise our internationally focused efforts. The International Education Strategy sets out only part of this vision. So, today, I want to set out my wider vision for the UK’s global higher education ambition and the principles at the heart of it.

The first of these principles is to build and amplify the UK’s role on the global stage. This means not only bolstering the quality and standing of UK higher education but to promote it abroad as a global leader and as a centre of international excellence, and strengthening our credentials to become an international partner of choice.

And we are starting from a great position. The UK higher education system already has a global reputation for quality. According to the QS World University Rankings, our institutions are globally recognised, with 4 providers in the top 10, and 18 providers in the top 100.

Our research also has truly global reach. In 2014, the UK produced 15.2% of the world’s most highly cited articles and, on indicators of research quality, the UK ranked above the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, Brazil and China.

We must champion and protect this reputation if we are to continue to attract talent from across the world, and continue to grow the sector’s international partnerships and collaborations.

A strong international reputation is vital for our ‘soft power’ and strengthening the role and potential of the UK overseas. According to the Soft Power 30 index, the UK is ranked first for global soft power, with education – and higher education in particular – being cited as key to our success.

It is success like this which helps the UK strengthen important trading links – such as those with emerging economies, which value English language skills, education reform or research co-operation.

Co-operation in these areas is not only important for trade but also opens up opportunities for UK providers to become increasingly international themselves. That is why the International Education Strategy, sets out our intention to appoint an International Education Champion – specifically to amplify the global reputation of UK higher education and help generate further international opportunities including through tackling and breaking down in-country barriers.

And quality is already our watchword. The key to maintaining a strong brand for UK higher education is the UK Quality Code, which sets the core quality standards that providers must adhere to.

Of course, higher education in the UK is a devolved matter, so it is only right that different nations will take slightly different approaches to applying the Code. However, all UK providers are required to meet the Code’s expectations, and it is this which ensures we can continually set a high threshold for quality across the country.

In England, the new regulator for the higher education sector, the Office for Students, has placed the UK Quality Code at the heart of its regulatory framework. And it has also gone further, by adding an additional requirement for providers to deliver successful outcomes for all students, which are either recognised and valued by employers or enable further study.

This focus on delivering successful outcomes is reflected across our entire approach to co-regulation in England: setting clear expectations for quality, whilst respecting institutional autonomy and creating the space necessary for providers to innovate.

But we must never be complacent, and I recognise that some quality issues remain. This is why we must work with the sector to protect and improve the quality of higher education in England, including tackling issues such as essay mills, and artificial grade inflation whilst rightly celebrating genuine grade improvements. These measures will help us to protect the quality of our qualifications and ensure they, and the UK’s Higher Education sector’s reputation for excellence, retain their value over time.

We should never turn our back on improvement. And we are lucky to be in a position where we can learn from our partners around the world, just as they can learn from what we are doing here in the UK. This mutual exchange of knowledge and good practice is at the heart of strong international relationships, and has the benefit to further strengthen UK higher education, as well as the institutions, systems and countries around the world that we partner with.

Having just put down an important marker with the new International Education Strategy published just under two weeks ago, I am keen to make sure UK higher education can internationalise further. This can be done by my second core principle – namely to enable UK higher education to maximise and benefit from the full range of international opportunities and interconnectedness available to it.

The first way we can do this is by increasing international activity or transnational education (TNE), as set out in the International Education Strategy. TNE warrants our attention, not least because it has significantly increased in value since 2010. And as the sector can attest, the value of TNE goes well beyond economic benefits. These partnerships help to support the pipeline of talent of students and researchers powering UK higher education, and can lead to potential increases in student enrolments.

TNE is nevertheless just one way in which UK higher education can enhance its internationalism. There is a broad fora of frameworks and platforms beyond this, particularly in the research and innovation space, which also help our international connectedness to flourish. And, of course, there is always more we can do support and strengthen these frameworks for collaboration and engagement.

Research Infrastructures are just one key way that researchers from any country can work together to tackle complex scientific and research challenges. Within Europe, such collaboration is often facilitated by European Research Infrastructure Consortia, known as ERICs.

UK participation in ERICs gives UK scientists and companies access to facilities, data, knowledge and contracts that would otherwise be inaccessible. And the outcomes of these projects feed directly into research communities across the UK and beyond, in fields such as marine science, astrophysics, human health and welfare, and societal change.

We are committed to ERICs, and we want to continue to host and be members of ERICs after Brexit. I am therefore pleased to confirm today that the UK will continue to meet the obligations needed to be members of ERICs after we have left the EU, irrespective of how we leave the EU. This decision will enable UK scientists and researchers to continue working on scientific challenges with our European partners just as they do now.

We are also working hard to maintain close collaboration in other European research frameworks – not least on the issue of the European University Institute (EUI). The EUI is an good example of European collaboration on education and research and I recently spoke with the President of the EUI, Professor Renaud Dehousse and we agreed to work closely together including on potential options for future participation in EUI activities. Our funding programmes to support international collaboration on science and innovation and our international representation, led by the Science and Innovation Network in British Embassies and High Commissions are ways we can deepen UK engagement globally.

To demonstrate our long-term commitment to this global engagement, we will publish an International Research and Innovation Strategy that will set out our ambition to remain the partner of choice for international research and innovation. And we will support early and effective implementation of the Strategy through an independent review of our future frameworks for international collaboration, as announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement earlier this month.

Whatever happens after Brexit, the UK is a key signatory of the Bologna Declaration, which creates a common frame of reference within the European Higher Education Area to promote and support mobility for students, graduates and teaching staff. And it does this mainly by creating a common approach to qualifications. I’d like to use this occasion today to reassure you the UK still remains committed to close collaboration on European higher education with our EHEA partners.

And that takes me on nicely to my third principle, through which I want the UK to provide a world leading offer to international students and staff. As Universities Minister, I want us to give international students the best possible experience of UK higher education and maximise the benefits they bring to institutions, as well as to our own domestic students.

It is well known that international students bring huge benefits to the UK and are integral to our higher education system. In 2016, international students accounted for 60% of all education exports, bringing in nearly £12 billion to the UK economy through tuition fees and living expenditure alone. The presence of international students in the UK is worth an estimated £26 billion in direct and indirect benefits.

International students help to generate jobs and support local businesses in the areas that they study – sustaining over 200,000 jobs in all parts of the UK. They bring cultural diversity and enrich the learning experiences of domestic students. And, as acknowledged by the Migration Advisory Committee, UK students genuinely value the positive impact that international students bring to their overall university experience.

And the benefits of international students don’t stop there. Hosting students from other countries can provide us with vital cultural and business links for the future and the Soft Power I referred to earlier.

According to research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), as of summer last year, among the serving monarchs, presidents and prime ministers around the world, 57 of them were educated in the UK. This is second only to the US, which just pipped us to the top spot by educating 58 of them. And according to British Council Research, of the Nobel Laureates who have studied abroad, 38% of them did so in the UK, showing how opening our doors to others can give us friends and opportunities to influence and engage around the world.

That is why we are taking a number of actions to ensure the UK continues to attract international students and the budding global leaders of tomorrow. The International Education Strategy, published just last week, sets out the scale of our ambition, with an aim to increase the numbers of international higher education students studying in the UK by over 30%, to 600,000 by 2030.

This ambition is supported by actions, which will enable us to attract these students in the face of international competition – such as increasing the post-study leave period and making it easier for students to move into skilled work after graduation.

But attracting international students is only one half of the equation. We also need to ensure that when international students come here, they are supported to make the most of their employment prospects in this country and in their home countries too. That is why the commitment made by UUKi to work with Government to improve the employability of our international students in the Strategy is so important. We rightly measure outcomes for our domestic students and we should do the same for international students too.

Beyond economics, we also have a duty of care. If this principle applies for our domestic students, it must also apply to students from abroad. We must ensure that while they are here, they are fully supported. On Monday, I set out in a keynote speech my new STEP framework, working with the sector on ensuring we deliver together the best student experience possible. I mentioned international students, Support for international students is essential especially in the area of mental health and wellbeing – something which is a clear priority for this government. And it is why this government is working closely with UUK on embedding the ‘Step Change’ programme within the sector, which calls on higher education leaders to adopt mental health as a strategic priority and adopt a whole-institution approach to transform cultures for domestic and international students alike.

It is also why we are backing the development of the University Mental Health Charter, which will drive up standards in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff wherever they come from in the world. And I implore all higher education leaders to engage with the work of the charity Student Minds as it leads development of this Charter.

Too often students, who have uprooted themselves to come to the UK for a high quality higher education in a diverse, international learning environment, find themselves isolated or entirely cocooned – with only their fellow nationals as companions, and not knowing where to turn to after their studies are complete. I was struck by the event on Monday, which demonstrated one in five international students do not have a friend when they’re at university.

So, my challenge to the sector is this: can you do more to help these students get the most out their experience in the UK and help them to integrate fully into the community, so that they too can go on to become lifelong advocates for UK higher education and for the UK more generally?

And, for my fourth and final principle, I also ask the sector to help us develop the ‘global citizens’ we need by providing increased international connectivity and opportunity. We want all domestic higher education students to benefit from an international experience.

Cultural exchange helps build important business, political and diplomatic bridges around the world, not to mention life-long friendships. Supporting students to study abroad helps us to create a new generation of globally mobile, culturally agile people who can succeed in an increasingly global marketplace. By supporting students to study abroad, they get first-hand experience of different cultures, helping them to broaden their horizons, their ambitions and their life-long opportunities, as well as breaking down barriers to social mobility.

This government, and the Department for Education in particular, share the conviction that international experiences enrich the education and personal development of UK students. And that is why the DfE supports and provides a number of outward mobility programmes to broaden access to international opportunities – such as the Fulbright and Generation UK China schemes; both of which have been expanded with increased funding over the last year.

My particular priority here is in improving outcomes for students from disadvantaged or currently under-represented backgrounds. That is why our funding for the Fulbright Scholarship and Generation UK-China specifically focuses on efforts to support disadvantaged students. I am actually set to go to China in a couple of weeks and look forward to meeting students on the Generation UK-China scheme and hear first-hand the difference it has made to their lives.

I realise part of the solution is making outward mobility more accessible and we, in government, are actively working on doing this by enabling eligible students studying in the United Kingdom to study abroad for up to 50% of their course and still be eligible for support from Student Finance England.

But having the means is no good if students don’t have anywhere to go. So, my challenge to the sector on this is how can you ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds are getting their fair share of international opportunities?

We believe that, irrespective of the outcome of EU exit negotiations, the UK and European countries should continue to give young people and students the chance to benefit from each other’s world leading universities post-exit. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement UK entities’ right to participate in the Erasmus+ programme during the current Multi-annual Financial Framework will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. We are also open to exploring participation in the successor scheme to the current Erasmus+ Programme.

In the event that the UK leaves the EU with no agreement in place, the Government has guaranteed that it will cover the payment of awards to UK applicants for Erasmus+ bids approved before exit day.

We are also considering a wide range of options with regards to the future of international exchange and collaboration in education and training, including a potential domestic alternative to the Erasmus+ Programme. The potential benefits of the UK establishing its own international mobility scheme would include the ability to tailor the scheme to UK needs and target the funding where it is most needed. I will be driving forward this work in the coming months.

As the Minister for Higher Education, these will be my guiding principles for international higher education activity going forwards into the future. They will steer my priorities and underpin the ways in which the Department for Education will drive activity.

As I have hopefully made clear, there is an important role for the sector here, in setting out your own international ambition and driving forward your own international activity building on what is already a global success story with, as I mentioned, nearly £12bn of higher education exports and an additional £1.9bn in the form of TNE, in 2016 alone. A proactive and engaged government can of course support and enable this, and I know there is more we could do to join up and Government stands by to support you.

But the challenge is not only ours. We need you to consider what more the sector can do to realise our full international potential and tell us how we, in government, can help you achieve these ambitions. I can assure you that we are listening. And I look forward to continue working with you as we make our way into a truly global future.

Chris Skidmore – 2019 Statement on the Adrian Smith Review

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Skidmore, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, on 26 March 2019.

I am pleased to announce that I have commissioned Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Director and Chief Executive of the Alan Turing Institute, to provide independent advice on the design of UK funding schemes for international collaboration, innovation and curiosity-driven blue-skies research.

The UK is a world-leading research nation with a globally connected research base. Collaboration with European and wider international partners is key to our strength in science and research: more than half of the UK’s research output involves such collaboration. The UK is in the top four of global innovation nations and we draw in more internationally mobile research and development (R&D) than other large countries, with a total of 16% of UK R&D investment financed from abroad.

This Government are bringing forward the largest investment in R&D on record. As outlined in our modern industrial strategy, we are committed to reaching 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D by 2027, and 3% in the longer term. International partnerships and collaboration will play an important part in helping to achieve our ambitions, including in supporting the industrial strategy’s grand challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s advice will help set the direction for the implementation of the Government’s ambition to ensure the UK continues to be a global leader in science, research and innovation, and an attractive country for individuals to study and work. Furthermore, Sir Adrian’s advice will help inform the upcoming spending review.

The terms of reference, outlining the scope, timescale and reporting of this work are below.

Terms of reference for the Commission of Professor Sir Adrian Smith


The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has commissioned Professor Sir Adrian Smith to provide independent advice on the design of potential future UK funding schemes for international, innovation and curiosity-driven blue-skies research, in the context of the UK’s future ambitions for international collaboration on research and innovation. This document outlines the terms of reference for this work.

The global landscape for science and innovation is changing, and access to knowledge, markets, skills and partners now takes place on a global basis. Global research and development (R&D) capacity is expanding and non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries account for a growing share of global R&D, both in terms of researchers and investment. Better understanding is needed on whether the UK’s current funding mechanisms, resources and bilateral and multilateral partnerships will be fit for purpose when set against the projected trends in international ​research and innovation, and against new technology and industry roadmaps and the forecast social, economic and environmental trends.

The UK’s participation in Horizon 2020, the current European Union (EU) framework programme for research and innovation, has benefited the UK’s science, research and innovation landscape. It provides opportunities for UK entities to collaborate with EU and international counterparts and funding for multiple elements including innovation, international collaborations and partnerships, and curiosity-driven ‘excellence’ based research. Horizon Europe is the successor to Horizon 2020 and will run from 2021 to 2027. The UK remains committed to ongoing collaboration in research and innovation with partners across Europe. To this end the UK would like the option to associate to Horizon Europe and is continuing to actively shape the development of that programme. However, we are also exploring in parallel credible and ambitious alternatives to deliver positive outcomes for science, research and innovation in the event that the UK chooses not to associate.


Professor Sir Adrian Smith has been invited to provide independent advice on how funding future international collaboration, from curiosity-driven ‘discovery’ funding through to innovation, can best be designed to positively impact science, research and innovation in the UK, and to support the Government’s strategic objectives, including the industrial strategy and its commitment to 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D by 2027.

In the immediate term, Professor Sir Adrian will be asked to advise on the design and delivery of elements of the potential alternatives to Horizon Europe association. This will include the Discovery Fund, which aims to provide a UK alternative to the curiosity-driven and excellence-focused elements of Horizon Europe.

On the Discovery Fund Professor Sir Adrian Smith will be asked to consider:

The design of UK alternative funds i.e. the scale, scope and any international elements of proposed funds, and how they could complement the current UK funding landscape;

The delivery of UK alternative funds i.e. how strategic direction could be determined, how proposals could be reviewed.

On international collaboration, Professor Sir Adrian Smith will be asked to consider:

How funding mechanisms, resources, and international partnerships can remain fit for purpose for our global ambition to support the international research and innovation strategy, which will be published in the coming months.

How international collaboration can best support the Government’s industrial strategy and 2.4% target.

Professor Sir Adrian’s advice will help inform the upcoming spending review (as announced in the spring statement) and longer-term value-for-money considerations on international collaboration for research and innovation.

Professor Sir Adrian will have the independence to engage with relevant stakeholders and seek expert advice as he sees fit.


It is anticipated interim findings will be presented to BEIS Ministers in the summer of 2019.


Professor Sir Adrian Smith will report to me as Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. Professor Sir Adrian will provide an update on progress on a regular (monthly) basis, to BEIS officials. A summary of his interim findings will be published by BEIS.