expert comments on the role of the UK as a science superpower (2022)

A few comments from the science community on the role of the UK as a ‘science superpower’ in case useful.

Claire Brading, Managing Director, UCB UK & Ireland, said:

“Sir, UCB is a top 3 investor in biopharmaceutical research and development in the UK, conducting hundreds of clinical trials here. We have experienced first-hand the significant challenges in setting up and recruiting patients to our trials, which has resulted in a slower progress to getting important medicines to patients. Indeed, the UK has fallen from 5th to 7th in the world for Phase 3 clinical trials since 2017.

“Just 68% of medicines approved by the European Medicines Agency were made available in England between 2017 – 2020. It is imperative that the UK has equitable access to new innovations and doesn’t become a country which is undesirable for first-to-market medicines. We are committed to being part of the UK’s ambition to be a science superpower, but we can’t do this alone. There needs to be commitment and leadership from our Government to work through bureaucratic obstacles and set the UK on course to be world leading.”

Dr Adrian J. Ivinson, Professor Bart De Strooper, UK Dementia Research Institute, said:

“William Hague’s challenge to the next PM to make good on the promise that Britain can and should be a science superpower is fundamental. So, what is stopping us from achieving the dream? Three things: You can’t be a science superpower without super funding. At the moment we are leaving good ideas on the table, untested simply because we don’t have the funds to pursue them. Second, we must free our researchers from red tape and let them get on with it. Accountability and KPIs have their place but at the moment there is a real risk that the reporting tail is wagging the science dog. And third, we must dedicate the UK’s scientific talent to solving the most pressing global challenges. Of these, dementia is one of the greatest, and it’s growing at an alarming rate. The UK has the potential to solve it – but only if our next PM delivers on the superpower pledge.”

(Video) What do we mean by a Science Superpower?

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, former President of the Academy of Medical Science, said:

“William Hague provides an excellent and well-timed call to arms for a “whole system” approach to investment in science. An ambitious and well-coordinated plan to invest in all aspects of the science landscape is vital to delivering on the UK’s enormous potential for economic growth.

“In my area of expertise – the life sciences – there has never been a more exciting time for Government to engage. Huge advances in our understanding of disease are being made on a daily basis, and new modalities of treatment – including cell and gene therapy – are showing their potential to revolutionise outcomes in previously intractable conditions. Likewise, the power of data science and AI to detect disease early, and to personalise treatment, will revolutionise health over the next few years.

“The UK already has the first component needed to be a genuine science superpower – the world-class fundamental and translational research that underpins all progress. Capitalising on this in the life sciences sector requires several conditions to be met. First, government must follow through on its commitment to reaching 2.4% GDP being spent on research. Second, the NHS must make research a priority despite all the imminent pressures. Third, closer partnerships with a range of industries through truly integrated life sciences clusters need to be nurtured (the value of physical proximity cannot be overestimated). Fourth, access to patient (long term) capital and investment in large-scale manufacturing will help to retain UK start-up companies in this country. Fifth, we need to extract two of the few tangible benefits of Brexit in the form of an agility dividend by streamlining regulation to make the UK the go to place for early phase trials – a major attractor for life science companies – and by evolving immigration policies that ensure that the UK is a magnet for talent from across the world.

“The Covid pandemic has exposed our poor underlying population health and gross health inequalities. Much of this derives from poverty and deprivation. Delivering on the ambition to be a science superpower will not only directly benefit health, but by driving economic growth, will also help to reduce inequality.”

(Video) Can the UK deliver on its ambition to be a Science Superpower?

Daniel Rathbone, Assistant Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:

“William Hague is absolutely right. The next PM needs to double down on research, development and innovation. We are at a tipping point – CaSE analysis has shown that the UK’s targets are amongst the least ambitious in the G7. We’ve seen big investments promised in the last year, now is the time for the Government to go further and deliver. Strong public investment and sticking to long-term plans gives business the confidence they need to bring their global R&D investment – which could go anywhere – to the UK. Coupled with a reset in EU relations, to enable the UK to associate to Horizon Europe, the new PM has the opportunity to show that science is at the heart of the UK’s future.”

Clio Heslop, Head of Policy, Partnerships & Impact, British Science Association, said:

“Britain cannot be a “science superpower” if parts of society are not readily welcomed to contribute to science and innovation. In his column today (2 August), William Hague asserts that the incoming PM must “act quickly”, but speed will not be enough to guarantee success.

“There is significant evidence that shows that structural barriers exist from science education through to research and industry. For example, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity & Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths has reported that the science sector excludes marginalised groups including Black people, women, disabled people, and people from LGBTQ+ communities.

(Video) Scenarios for a Science Superpower, 6 July 2022

“Similar to the Government’s wider ‘Levelling-up’ ambitions, any science superpower strategy needs to address inequity of access to science, so that areas of the UK beyond traditional innovation and science hubs can benefit and contribute.

“We strongly urge the Government to use the recommendations from the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee’s current diversity inquiry, to ensure the UK’s next phase of R&D benefits from the full potential of our population.

“The British Science Association believes that combatting structural inequity will improve growth, create sustainable economic prosperity and offer opportunities for future generations to lead our superpower status.”

Dr Martin Turner, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BioIndustry Association, said:

“William Hague’s call on the next Prime Minister to give science and technology a place at the Cabinet table is absolutely right. We need leadership from the top to harness our competitive strength in science.

(Video) Fujitsu: A new model of innovation to realize the UK’s scientific superpower potential

“The past few years we have seen a boom in life science start-ups in the UK, with the sector benefitting from record levels of private investment. But, as Mr Hague notes, not everything is in place for us to claim to be a science superpower, yet. Clinical trials, for instance, need focus. The next government must ensure the Conservative’s past success with modern industrial strategy for life sciences, which has enabled the UK to respond to the pandemic so effectively and driven the sector forward at pace in areas such as genomics, cell and gene therapies and mRNA, is not squandered.

“The incoming Prime Minister must give confidence to investors and companies that it will continue to champion the UK life sciences sector to ensure it continues to thrive and can deliver as the jewel in the crown of the UK’s future innovation-based economy, delivering benefit to both patients and the UK taxpayer.”

Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.


Is the UK a science superpower? ›

“The path to faster growth and better wages starts and ends with science and innovation. The UK is already a Science Superpower in discovering new ideas and building thriving knowledge networks, but we could do much more to apply them for the benefit of the UK's strategic and economic priorities.

How good is the UK at science? ›

The UK is ranked third in the world for published scientific research, with nearly 200,000 citable publications in 2020 alone. No wonder we continue to be a top choice for international students – especially postgraduates – who want to make sure they are exposed to the cutting edge of their subject.

What is a science superpower? ›

become a “science and tech superpower” by 2030.8 George Freeman MP, the. then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Science, Research. and Innovation), said that becoming a “science superpower” means “that. UK science is punching above its weight in terms of global impact.”

What is considered a superpower? ›

A superpower is a state with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined means of economic, military, technological, political and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence.

What is the importance of Britain in the field of science? ›

Home of great discoveries

The UK has a special place in the history of science. From Isaac Newton to Charles Darwin, Rosalind Franklin and Stephen Hawking, we've been globally recognised for our discoveries since the very earliest days of science.

How advanced is the UK? ›

New global index ranks UK first in Europe for advanced digital technology. The UK is better placed than any country in Europe to take advantage of the technologies impacting global businesses over the next decade, according to a new index launched by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technologies.

What is the UK world leading in? ›

The UK is the world's largest exporter of financial services and the leading nation for foreign exchange trading. In fact, Britain's financial services trade surplus reached £68.9 billion in 2016, more than the USA and Switzerland combined.

Who is the biggest superpower? ›

United States. The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world's most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television.

Who are the 5 superpowers in the world? ›

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are often referred to as great powers by academics due to "their political and economic dominance of the global arena". These five nations are the only states to have permanent seats with veto power on the UN Security Council.

Who are the 5 superpowers in the world 2022? ›

Most Powerful Countries 2022
Power RankCountryGDP per Capita
1United States$65,280
73 more rows

Who is the top UK scientist? ›

Top 10 Greatest British Scientists
  • Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
  • Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
  • Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
  • Joseph Lister (1827-1912)
  • Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)
  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994)
  • 3 more.

Who is Britain's greatest scientist? ›

7 of the greatest British scientists (and how they changed the...
  • Isaac Newton (1643-1727) ...
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882) ...
  • Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) ...
  • Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) ...
  • Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994) ...
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) ...
  • Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)
Dec 7, 2020

Who is the leading scientist in the world? ›

Albert Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in the world. He used to be an eccentric person who was perhaps the only scientist in the world who has become such a household name. His theories of relativity, gravitation and his understanding of molecules have defined new approaches in science.

Is UK good in technology? ›

London ranks fourth in the world for tech VC investment, behind San Francisco, Beijing, and New York. The UK's start-up and scale-up ecosystem is valued at more than £585 billion, more than double that of Germany, the next most valuable ecosystem, and an increase of more than 120% from 2017.

Is the UK the most advanced country? ›

UK is the fourth most technologically advanced country in the world.

How did Britain become so powerful? ›

The Industrial revolution was born in Britain in the 1700s, and allowed huge economic growth, which brought even more money in, allowing them to become still more powerful, economically, politically and militarily, in the process.

What is United Kingdom best known for? ›

Sports and literature are among the United Kingdom's cultural claims to fame. Soccer, rugby, cricket, boxing, and golf were all invented in Britain. And the U.K. has produced many great writers, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Robert Burns.

Where is the nicest place to live in the UK? ›

But in the meantime, here's the official ranking of all the winners:
  • Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
  • Norwich, East.
  • Crystal Palace, London.
  • Uppingham, Midlands.
  • Slaithwaite, North and Northeast.
  • Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.
  • Trawden, Northwest.
  • Isle of Bute, Scotland.
Apr 8, 2022

Is Britain still powerful? ›

The United Kingdom today retains extensive global soft power, including a formidable military. The United Kingdom has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council alongside only 4 other powers, and is one of the nine nuclear powers.

Is it better to study in England or Scotland? ›

In Scotland, undergraduate courses are 4 years long unlike in the rest of the UK where the average course length is 3 years. The Scottish higher education system is designed to be more flexible and inclusive in nature, whereas the English system takes a deeper approach to learning.

Should I study in London or Scotland? ›

According to QS Best Student Cities, London has been ranked the best student-friendly city in the world while Scotland is known for being a major hub for world-renowned research, culture, and its highlands.

Can I study in Scotland and work in England? ›

If you are studying a full time programme at the University of Edinburgh, your Tier 4 or Student visa should allow you to work in the UK. You will be permitted to work: 20 hours in any given week during term time if you are studying a full-time programme at degree level and above; OR.

How can I go to England for study? ›

Applying to study in the UK is a straightforward process and we will guide you through it step by step.
  1. Decide on a university or college and course. ...
  2. Register and apply. ...
  3. Accept your offer. ...
  4. Arrange funding. ...
  5. Apply for a visa. ...
  6. Prepare for your stay.


1. Is China the New Science Superpower?
2. Science Superpower: How Britain's Fight Against Malaria is Driving Innovation and Saving Lives
(Conservative Home)
3. GB News coverage of "Creating a Scientific Superpower' conference
(Bidwells LLP)
4. Brain Psychology | This Man Will Leave You Speechless | Wim Hof
(Success Archive)
5. Is India a space superpower? - BBC News
(BBC News)
6. What Should the UK Learn from the Pandemic When it Comes to the Role of Science in Public Health?

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