05 December 2013

UK investment in STEM must continue to grow

David Brown
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has welcomed today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and is urging the UK government to sustain its focus and investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Today’s announcement included 30,000 new student places in publicly-funded higher education institutions and extra funding of £50 million per academic year for the teaching of STEM subjects.

In addition, government will provide an additional contribution of £40 million to deliver an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeships from 2013-14.

Longer-term, the government has announced it will produce a Science and Innovation Strategy in 2014 which will outline the government’s commitment on science capital expenditure. Science capital funding will increase by £500m in 2015-16 to £1.1 billion.

Commenting on George Osborne’s statement, Dr David Brown said: “Today’s announcements are another positive step in the right direction. However, £90 million is a small investment when measured against the scale of the task.

“For engineering alone, it is estimated that the UK will need around 87,000 graduate level engineers per year over the next ten years. In 2013 we only expect to produce around 50,000. In addition we have a major shortfall in the 69,000 apprenticeships needed by industry each year1

“Today’s announcement should only be the start of a long-term commitment to invest in science, technology, engineering and maths”.

Dr Brown continued: “There is a loud and consistent message that STEM disciplines are vital to the future of UK plc. This week’s report from the OECD, which indicated that UK maths and science education is stagnating and ‘average’, is further proof that government investment is urgently needed.

“Government needs to ensure that the expansion in apprenticeships and higher education places is focused on economically vital occupations such as engineering. Capital expenditure also needs to mirror this expansion by making sure a high quality infra-structure is put in place such as laboratories and equipment, alongside an increase in teaching capacity.

“It’s also important that industry and employers respond positively to today’s announcements. Young people need to be inspired and aspire to become world-class engineers. This cannot be achieved without sponsorship, placements and engagement with young people and the education sector”.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).