The Campaign for Science and Engineering, of which EPC is a subscribing member, met recently with David Willetts, having collated input from its members. Here is their summary of the meeting which contains the majority of our input.
The Minister was particularly interested in the range of issues raised by CaSE members about capital investment in infrastructure such as:
- the need for people, not just equipment (eg strengthening the skills pipeline in mathematics to support Big Data)
- the need for greater capacity in teaching provision to train those people in STEM subjects (at school and university level)
- the difficulty in obtaining funding to support maintenance and upgrades for large infrastructure (eg from Research Council grants)
- concerns about establishing large facilities with capital only and the problems associated with obtaining operational costs solely from research grants
The Minister emphasised the unprecedented capital commitment made in the Spending Review (£1.1bn pa to 2020). We discussed the opportunity it provides for us in CaSE to argue for parallel investment in recurrent costs (e.g. research grants and operational costs) in order to maximise the value of the government’s capital investment in equipment and facilities. The Minister argued that demonstrating the public and economic value of government investments in science and engineering will be important for the next Spending Review.