Three new guest authors share their thoughts as part of Policy@Manchester’s Budget Hack event:
While educational inequalities must always remain a concern, our experience at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology has not been one of over-representation of privately educated individuals.
Our main concern is the skills gap that continues to persist between university education and industry – this isn’t a comment on the education, of course, but of the lack of transitional arrangements such as apprenticeships, that enable graduates to tailor their knowledge and skills to the highly specialised demands of industry. More apprenticeships of this type are coming on stream, and this is to be welcomed, but more needs to be done to assist with the move from education to industry in the science and technology sectors.
Exacerbating this issue is the continuing reduction and restrictions in postgraduate and research funding. For example, limiting BBSRC grant applications to institutions, rather than individual academics, exerts a chilling effect on the number of potential research projects proposed.
Financial support for postgraduates and academic research is essential to creating the researchers that Philip Hammond and Theresa May will need to spend the extra money on Research and Development that has been such an important part of the Industrial Strategy so far.
As with everything in politics at the moment, we just can’t avoid talking about Brexit!
Brexit will not only have knock-on effects for student numbers and finances, but there is a significant amount of research funding at stake. For example, Marie Curie research funding schemes are worth millions to British universities, and the way that they focus on so-called ‘translational’ science (science directly applicable to industry) and emphasise the importance of working with Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) as well as large, established industries, make it some of the most useful financial support available to science and technology academics.
At the very least, we hope that the government will undertake to replace both the money lost as a result of leaving these schemes and the approach that prioritises getting good science to market and working with SME businesses as well as the bigger players. Otherwise, our ability to deliver long-term economic success is will be sadly limited.
We should remember that science is a real success story for the UK – combining high quality of outputs with strong links to industry and economy, but the government needs to live up to its mantra of ‘stepping up and stepping in’ if we are maintain our position.
We look forward to seeing whether the Budget starts to deliver on the investment we need!
Ros Le Feuvre, Sabine Flitsch, and Nick Weise work at The University of Manchester’s Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, and spoke to Policy@Manchester’s Craig Whittall