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Economy Economy

Ensure we have a regulatory environment that encourages innovation in science

Last updated: 12:08pm 29 October 2019

We will increase the number of scientists working in the UK and enable leading scientists from around the world to work here. We will work hard to ensure we have a regulatory environment that encourages innovation.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.19

Our verdict

The “regulatory environment” refers to a broad set of directives maintained by the government, including economic, social or institutional regulations. These rules set a standard for defining how businesses operate and protecting citizens, but can be seen to hamper developments and are sometimes referred to as “red tape”.  We are said to be going through a fourth industrial revolution, with digital and technological advances heralding a new era of discovery and rapid progress in many areas of science. There are, however, concerns that strict or outdated regulatory environments may hamper progress. This pledge is light on detail, but suggests that the government want to minimise the negative impacts of regulatory institutions and processes on scientific innovation.

In June 2019 the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a white paper discussing the changing requirements of the regulatory environment during this fourth industrial revolution. The white paper set out a long-term strategy for maintaining forward-thinking regulatory processes that would encourage progress in innovation. There are many processes proposed in the paper, including the development of a new Regulatory Horizons Council which will “..identify the implications of technological innovation and advise the government on regulatory reform needed to support its rapid and safe introduction”, and improved access to regulatory support for innovators. Indeed, the Summary of Commitments in the paper lists a raft of initiatives which would contribute to fulfilment of this policy pledge.

This is a complex area characterised by rapid progress, so we will need to continue to monitor the government’s actions to see if the regulatory environment is really supportive of innovation once the changes start to take effect. But, for the time being, we think this is ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

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