The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been broken up after just six years.
BEIS had an enormous brief, covering business, industrial strategy, science, research and innovation and climate change. It also covered deregulation, energy and clean growth.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided to restructure it, creating:
The formation of the first two of these three departments has big implications for innovation, grant funding and R&D activity.
The formation of a new department dedicated solely to energy security and net zero shows how strongly the government is prioritising energy supply and the development of green technologies.
The energy crisis has brought home the necessity of the UK producing and storing its own energy, so it can reduce the costs for consumers and businesses while also meeting its carbon emissions targets.
One of the Department’s six priorities is to “seize the economic benefits of Net Zero”. In other words, by investing in green industries on the road to Net Zero, there is an opportunity for economic growth and the creation of new jobs.
This was already a very busy area for grant funding — and it could get even busier.
Already this year, there have been multiple grant funding rounds related to Net Zero, covering hydrogen, renewable energy technologies and decarbonisation.
We are also aware of a number of grants opening later in the year that follow a similar theme. This trend is likely to only grow as the government pursues its targets for energy production, a better infrastructure and supporting emerging technologies.
Mr Sunak said the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will “make sure the UK is the country where the next great scientific discoveries are made – and where the brightest minds and the most ambitious entrepreneurs will turn those ideas into companies, products, and services that can change the world”.
R&D is one of the areas it will be focusing on. It will be dedicated to “optimising public R&D investment to support areas of relative UK strength” and increasing the level of private R&D “to make our economy the most innovative in the world”.
The R&D scheme is already set to undergo a number of changes, with the Treasury consulting on creating a single, simplified R&D tax scheme used by large businesses and SMEs alike.
It remains to be seen whether this new department will make further changes to the scheme.
This new department will also take over the sponsorship of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the body that directs research and innovation funding.
The UKRI chief executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser has called the establishment of the new Department “an incredibly exciting development, signalling the government’s commitment to building a fully joined up research and innovation system.”
We’ll be watching closely to see what all these changes might mean for the grant funding landscape too.
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