Chris Skidmore MP is Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. He is currently the MP for Kingswood, South Gloucestershire and is the current Vice-Chairman of the Conservative party for policy in 2018.
He announced that University research was set to receive a major boost in funding. Research funding is set to receive £2.2 billion between 2019-2020, which is an increase of £91 million from 2018-2019. This is in the hope that more academic ideas and proposals can be translated to reality. This funding boost also includes an additional £45 million for quality-related (QR) research funding, which is a 2.3% increase from last year. This increase includes contributions to the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) that supports universities to implement the government’s Industrial Strategy.
This is a record high and Skidmore has commented, “I am delighted that for the first time since 2010, we have a significant uplift in QR funding for universities. One of my personal priorities has been to place universities at the heart of innovation for the future and I’m pleased to have worked to deliver on this.” (1)
As well as this, Skidmore announced that postgraduate support for EU nationals has been extended another year. This is a guarantee for those starting postgraduate studies in the UK in 2020, and is yet another policy that shows Skidmore’s ambitions in expanding research and development. He states: “Increased investment in research and development is a key ambition of the government which has committed to 2.4% GDP spent on R&D by 2027 – a vital part of our industrial strategy. The government has already committed to investing an additional £7 billion on R&D by 2021, the largest increase for 40 yeas.” (2)
Skidmore’s reasoning to extending funding for international students is his belief in their contributions to UK universities and hopes that an extension of funding will be an incentive for them to come to the UK to conduct their studies. “International students make an important contribution to our world-leading universities. This is all about people – giving prospective students the reassurances they need to choose the UK for the next step in their academic career.” This idea of continued collaboration between the UK and international students is part of Chris Skidmore’s wider Industrial Strategy. One of the cornerstones of this strategy is that innovation, science and research know no borders.
As part of this strategy young entrepreneurs are being challenged to create apps and technologies that could help brighten the future. This is to be supported by £1 million of government investment specifically targeted at those between the ages of 11-16. This is set to be extracurricular and known as the Longitude Explorer Prize. It will be run by NESTA challenges who inspire innovators to solve some of the world’s most pressing societal problems.
These apps or technologies are to be based around the 4 grand challenges: becoming greener; healthy ageing; cleaning up transport and the artificial intelligence (AI) and data revolution. These challenges are all identified in the modern industrial strategy laid out by Skidmore and the department of Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
As part of this scheme, students will also get the chance to work with industry mentors to help develop their products, giving them an exciting opportunity to create something with leading experts in the field. Elaborating further, Skidmore says, “this new competition will not only help thousands of young people seize these opportunities but also become the next generation of digital entrepreneurs to stay at the global cutting edge of innovation – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.” (3)