The science of good engagement – seizing the opportunities presented by the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

In July 2021, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that he would make the UK a ‘science superpower’.

The ambition reflected the fact that, with an increasingly globalised and digitally driven economy, the UK’s position as a leading-edge science and technology nation would be critical to our place in the world.

The Government’s initial steps to turn the aspiration into a reality appeared promising.

With the creation of the National Science and Technology Council, and the stated goal of lifting public R&D funding to £20billion by 2024/25, the Government appeared to underpin its ambition with action.

And yet, in August 2022, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee warned that the Government’s vision risked ‘becoming an empty slogan’, unless an implementation plan followed.

Fast forward 18 months, two more Prime Ministers, and several chancellors, and there is still no concrete implementation plan. Which makes yesterday’s creation of a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), the most significant development yet in the UK’s quest to become a science and technology superpower.

A caveat first – history has shown that changes to the machinery of government do not always translate into more focused policy making. The disruption this will cause – particularly for civil servants who, by all accounts, were caught unawares by the change – may in fact delay key decisions in the short term.

But the significance of this change should not be underestimated. And nor should the opportunity it presents to organisations looking to engage around science and technology policy and regulation.

There has been a long history of science and technology being championed and then dropped by successive UK governments. Too often the initiatives and regulations proposed to help early-stage tech have been found to be too complicated and/or expensive. This new department needs to be embedded into government for the long-term and be given the opportunity to drive the next generation of UK tech leaders.

As an agency that works extensively with tech brands on both sides of the Atlantic, we can see how much unfulfilled potential UK tech companies have, and we dearly wish them to succeed both in the UK and around the world.

And the reality is that there has never been a better time to make the case to government that your specific sector, your technology, or your manufacturing speciality should be a focus for support.

Downing Street, and the leadership of DSIT under new Secretary of State Michelle Donelan MP, will be under pressure to demonstrate the value that the change has created, and will be searching for quick and quantifiable wins.

If you approach the Department with a proven, workable idea, framed against the Government’s key priorities, you will likely receive a receptive audience.

You need to explain to key decision makers the potential of your business to drive the UK’s ambitions in science, technology and innovation. But you also need to relate it to wider priorities.

Does your product or process help with an overarching grand challenge, such as climate change or delivering healthcare to an ageing population? Can it help deliver a circular economy, or assist in achieving greater energy security?

By relating your product to the societal challenges that will define the UK in the decades to come, you help root it in government priorities.

And once you become a priority yourself, you ensure that Government creates a commercial, regulatory and policy environment in which your business can thrive.

If you would like an informal conversation about how Brands2Life could assist your organisation to maximise engagement with the new Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, please email [email protected].