Government announces £6bn science and innovation strategy, includes keeping graduates off dole

Highlights of the strategy include £3 billion to support and maintain laboratories at universities and research institutes. There is also £2.9 billion towards large capital projects to support scientific Grand Challenges, including a £30 million UK commitment to XFEL – an international free electron laser project – and £20 million to create an Inspiring Science Capital Fund to get the public more engaged in science.

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The government has published details of its £6 billion Science and Innovation Strategy, which sets out the government’s priorities for investment and support to 2021. There will also be new efforts to improve the quality of science degrees, which has won industry support.

Highlights of the strategy include £3 billion to support and maintain laboratories at universities and research institutes. There is also £2.9 billion towards large capital projects to support scientific Grand Challenges, including a £30 million UK commitment to XFEL – an international free electron laser project – and £20 million to create an Inspiring Science Capital Fund to get the public more engaged in science.

There will also be up to £235 million for a Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials based in Manchester, and £95 million for European Space Agency programmes, including taking the lead in the next European Rover mission to Mars.

And £61 million will be invested in the government-backed High Value Manufacturing Catapult programme, and an additional £28 million will create a new National Formulation Centre within the Catapult to drive innovation and develop next generation technology products.

Also, there will be a new offer of up to £10,000 of income contingent loans for postgraduate taught masters degrees.

Vince Cable, minister for business, innovation and skills, said: "From cars to computers, ideas and ingenuity underpin British productivity and the UK is world-renowned for pushing boundaries in innovation.

"We need to maintain our competitive edge so this strategy sets out a long-term plan for expanding our innovation infrastructure, creating high value jobs and putting science and innovation at the heart of economic growth.

Computer science review

A review of computer science degrees has been sparked by concerns that computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rates of any subject area, despite the continued growth of the tech sector.

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, welcomed the review of accreditation for computer science courses in UK universities. BCS accredits computing courses in 80 percent of UK universities. The review will be undertaken by an independent reviewer.

Paul Fletcher, group CEO of BCS, said: “It’s very important that university accreditation should undergo regular reviews to ensure that courses offer students the best opportunities.

“As an accreditation body however, we want to ensure that the review considers all factors. Employability is critical as one of several measures that need to be taken into account, and the ability for universities to drive social mobility by helping students from under privileged backgrounds is also important."

The Tech Partnership, a network of employers collaborating to accelerate the growth of the digital economy, also welcomed the review of computer science degree accreditation.

Phil Smith, CEO UK & Ireland at Cisco, and chair of the Tech Partnership, said: “University computer science courses provide an important recruitment pool for the sector. As a growing network of employers from right across the economy, the Tech Partnership has considerable experience of collaborating with universities to create new degree programmes that deliver outstanding academic and employment outcomes. We are pleased to bring this experience to the review.”

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