UK government’s science and tech dept kicks off secondment initiative
Just two months after the department was created, the first experts have accepted placements on the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology secondment scheme.
According to the UK government, the Expert Exchange – as the scheme is known – has been set up to overhaul the way secondees are brought into government, to bring cutting-edge expertise from UK academia and industry to drive prominent research and technologies, from quantum and data science to silicon chips and life sciences.
It also aims to solidify the links between the science, tech and research sectors, and government, as the placements gain first-hand experience of working within a government department on placements of up to nine months, DSIT said in the official release.
“In order to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower, we need to leverage the insight of the UK’s world-leading science and technology sectors, including ensuring that the best talent within these areas is behind our mission,” said Science and Technology secretary Michelle Donelan.
Donelan, who took over as secretary of state for the department in February this year, added that she expects the Exchange to bring in expertise to evolve and expand innovation that fits in with the department’s core vision: using “science, innovation and technology in order to foster the growth of future industries.”
Initially working with the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to identify “high performing, mid-career academics and engineers”, the Expert Exchange will embed science and tech sector experts into DSIT policy teams for up to nine months at a time.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said it is vital that the government can access the expertise it needs and that the engineers develop their understanding of how to engage with policymakers.
“By bringing engineers into the heart of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the government is demonstrating its commitment to advancing the pro-innovation policies that will be essential for the UK to thrive and to help tackle global challenges,” she adds.
The Expert Exchange builds on the objectives of the Science and Technology Framework, the government’s plan to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030.
Westminster said that more secondees are expected to join the department throughout the year and officials are also exploring whether the secondments could become a two-way process, with DSIT civil servants possibly undertaking placements in academia or industry to gain a deeper understanding of the sectors they set policy for.
For many years, tech sector leaders have called for a Cabinet-level role for science and technology and more people from scientific backgrounds in government, as the industry becomes an increasingly important part of the UK economy.
Recent Conservative administrations have repeatedly stated a goal of making the UK a science and technology “superpower”.
However, questions have also been raised about the government’s approach after it withdrew funding from start-up incubator Tech Nation, leading the not-for-profit to announce its closure.
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