21 September 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, responds to questions from MPs.

Innovation: Private Sector Investment

Ben Bradley (Mansfield) (Con)

2. What steps his Department is taking to increase private sector investment in innovation. (903529)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (George Freeman)

It is very good to be back as the newly appointed Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) for his tireless work on levelling up and the importance of innovation in supporting left-behind communities. Science and innovation are not the same thing. We are committed to being both a science superpower and an innovation nation, and that is why I am looking hard at what we can do, through the business innovation forum, the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, Innovate UK and UKRI, to drive levelling up.

Ben Bradley 

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and welcome him back to his new position—congratulations. There is an oven-ready package available in the east midlands, with key projects set to boost private investment in the region. The Government’s backing for those projects this autumn is vital. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government are supportive of our plans for an east midlands freeport, our development corporation and the importance of Toton in the integrated rail plan? Does he agree that this is a huge opportunity to attract private investment into a region that traditionally is at the bottom of the table for attracting that kind of money?

George Freeman 

In a word, yes. My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. Freeports and regeneration corporations are vital to our innovation strategy. Not only are we determined that there will be funding for the golden triangle, but we want to harness science and regeneration to drive growth around the country.


World Leadership in Science, Research and Innovation

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

4. What steps his Department is taking to establish the UK’s position as a world leader in science, research and innovation. (903531)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (George Freeman)

I thank my hon. Friend, who has been a distinguished Minister in the Treasury and the Department for Transport and a champion of innovation. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the Government are completely committed to unlocking this country’s global reach as a science superpower and an innovation nation. That is why we are committed to spending £14.9 billion this year on research and development, and to increasing the total R&D budget to £22 billion and 2.5% of GDP.

Andrew Jones 

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, and congratulate him. It is good to see him back at the Dispatch Box.

One of the largest employers in my constituency is Labcorp, a business that is at the heart of new medicine development both in the UK and across Europe and has played a role in the life science industry response to covid. It is considering UK expansion over the next five years at a number of sites across the UK. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss that opportunity, and also some of the obstacles that may get in the way of it, with a view to securing expansion in the UK as a whole but in Harrogate in particular?

George Freeman 

I should be delighted to meet my hon. Friend soon to discuss that. Labcorp is a major global corporation whose investment in the new clinical pharmacology site is vital. It is in such companies that we need to be investing to drive private investment in research and development.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

Time and again I have raised with the Government the opportunity to invest in BioYorkshire, which will create 4,000 jobs for my constituents, upskill 25,000 people, and deliver £5 billion in gross value added to the Government. Will the Minister meet me to discuss it? COP26 is just six weeks away, and not pursuing projects like this is holding back the improvements that we can make to our environment.

George Freeman 

As I have said, I am wholly committed to ensuring that science innovation drives levelling up and regeneration, and I should be delighted to meet the hon. Lady. I shall be on my way to County Durham on Thursday, so perhaps I can meet her next week or the week after.


Topical Questions

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)

T6. The space sector presents us with huge opportunities for the future prosperity of this country. What plans is my right hon. Friend developing with regard to the implementation, ownership, governance and funding of key elements of the national space strategy? (903559)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (George Freeman)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has been a phenomenal champion of science and technology in space. I am delighted to say that the Government are very shortly to publish our national space strategy, into which we put a huge amount of work. In addition to the £1.4 billion that we spend on defence space activities in our innovation strategy, we are looking to make sure that we boost the wider science and technology applications of our £16.4 billion space sector.


Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)

I welcome the Minister back re-energised to his place in the Department, and as today is Gloucestershire Day, can I ask him to look very closely at the bid made by Gloucestershire to support the development of a vital new technology—nuclear fusion?

George Freeman 

On Gloucestershire Day, it is a great pleasure to take that question from my hon. Friend, and the answer is yes.