Brexit: Freeman slams 'aggressive' EU checks on Newsnight
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Speaking before the Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday, George Freeman was confident that the UK’s potential to become a science powerhouse. The Science Minister said that Britain needs to create a certain “ecosystem” in its science landscape that could help it to create a kind of “Silicone Valley”, a region in California in the US with a worldwide reputation for technology and innovation.
When whether the UK can have a “Silicon Valley”, Mr Freeman told the Committee: “We have to make our UK ecosystem, UKRI, the research councils, the public labs, our research universities, that ecosystem to compete has got to take on China investing £240billion a year, America £180billion a year. We are going from 15 to 20 and the 22 which is fantastic.
“But we have to make that hum like a formula 1 engine, it has to be the best, most agile and creative.”
In the autumn budget review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledged to boost spending on research and development (R&D) to £20billion by 2024/25.
This will increase to £22billion in 2026/27.
Mr Freeman detailed how it might be best to use those funds to enhance British science.
He told that we need to make sure “our system is supporting both deep blue sky science and supporting the deep industrial partnerships and the nearer market commercialisation”.
He added: “The real challenge is about getting much stronger industry engagement into the catapults, which we are doing.
“It is about having a clearer landscape for international investors to see what they can invest in, which we are doing.
“It is about moving from being a start-up economy to a scale-up economy, a lot of good work has been done on that.”
But Mr Freeman claimed that all of this can be done thanks to Britain’s “post-Brexit freedom”.
He said: “Using our post-Brexit freedoms in terms of regulation not to race to the bottom but to race to the top and be more agile in setting international standards.
“If we could set some really good, strong, clear regulatory frameworks that would take the EU 10 or 20 years to do, then we could be more agile. Then I think that would help boost investor and consumer confidence.”
Boris Johnson has set a target of making the UK a science and technology superpower by 2030.
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The Prime Minister is said to want to build on the success of the UK’s Covid vaccine programme, and apply these strengths in other areas.
These include producing innovative technologies to reach net-zero carbon emissions and finding a cancer cure.
Mr Johnson said back in June: “I’ve long believed that we can invest more in science as a country. And we want to use that public investment to trigger waves of private investment.”
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