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Government sets vision for public sector innovation


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK Government has set out a three pronged vision and a package of measures to develop a more innovative public sector by 2030.

The recently established Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has included the ambitions within a broader Science and Technology Framework, published today. This will be backed by over £370 million in funding for infrastructure, investment ad skills for technologies including AI and quantum computing.

The document includes a section on an innovative public sector that describes three outcomes for the end of the decade.

One is to have the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills at all levels of government, with inter-disciplinary teams for more effective decision making and government laboratories de-risking early stage research and forming the basis of innovation clusters.

Secondly, there should be improved knowledge, talent and resource sharing within government and between the public sector, academia and businesses. This will include increased collaboration between departments, professions and sectors, with partnerships to support the levelling up agenda.

Thirdly, there is a need for a culture to support and reward an innovative approach to delivering services in the public sector. This will involve an “appropriate” risk appetite and value for money assessments.

Action plan

In support of these DSIT is working on a cross-government action plan with the Government Office for Science and the Cabinet. The initial work will include co-ordinating advice and initiatives to ensure public services benefit from the opportunities of large language models and other generative AI capabilities while managing the risks, and ensuring that chief scientific advisers have articulated their departments’ roles in delivering the framework.

Other measures include providing physical space and support to public servants to develop and test new ideas for delivering government business, increasing the proportion of STEM graduates in the Civil Service Fast Stream by 50%, and training government leaders to raise their awareness of the importance of science and technology.

The public sector is also cited in two of the 10 points of action within the broad framework: to capitalise its buying power to boost innovation and growth; and create a pro-innovation culture within the sector.

Other points include an identification of strategic advantage in specific technologies, an increase in investment in research and development, and financing for start-ups.

Keys to future

Commenting on the whole package, Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Michelle Donelan said: “Innovation and technology are our future. They hold the keys to everything from raising productivity and wages, to transforming healthcare, reducing energy prices and ultimately creating jobs and economic growth in the UK, providing the financial firepower allowing us to spend more on public services.

“That is why, today, we are putting the full might of the British government and our private sector partners behind our push to become a scientific and technological superpower, because only through being world leaders in future industries like AI and quantum will we be able to improve the lives of every Briton.”

DSIT has also announced a pilot of a national data research cloud, supported by UK Research and Innovation, for researchers to test different of pooling information and solving challenges more effectively; and the launch of a £200,000 grant funding competition to deliver an ecosystem building capability for cyber-physical infrastructure.

In addition, there will be support for hundreds of new PhD projects focused on AI, and further announcements on technology missions in AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology.

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