There were plenty of snarky comments after the first ever British satellite launch failed this week, says Paul Waugh in the I newspaper. Critics called it the “perfect metaphor” for the UK’s decline. But they’re dead wrong: British science is in fact being transformed by Rishi Sunak’s “record” spending. This week, the “ebullient” Science Minister George Freeman fleshed out plans to invest £20bn a year into research and development by 2025. He stressed that by loosening regulations – a move made possible by Brexit – the government will turn the UK into a “test bed” for overseas firms to trial new tech. And he confirmed an expansion of the new UK Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which focuses on “high-risk, high-reward” projects.
This is one area where the government has “put its money where its mouth is”. The Tories have already surpassed their 2019 commitment to spend 2.4% of GDP on research and development, achieving closer to 3%. Billions of pounds are being pumped into nuclear fusion and agri-tech: ways to build sustainable growth beyond the “boom-and-bust” cycle brought about by our over-dependence on financial services. And “regional clusters of experience” – marine technology on the south coast, semiconductors in Wales, hydrogen in the North East – mean levelling up could finally become a reality. It seems Sunak has realised “the party that owns the future owns a general election”.