Ed Miliband certainly stirred his troops in to a frenzy of enthusiasm last Tuesday in Manchester. Labour party conference last week was quite different to my first visit to party conference world last year; the party in opposition seemed to me to be confident and business-like. At many events we heard about the ongoing policy reviews in a number of shadow departmental teams, which we will watch with interest as the results become more apparent.
I raced around conference attending a range of innovation related events. Ideas around a reappraisal of the definition of ‘growth’, debates around the content of an effective industrial strategy, calls to better support knowledge led sectors, and dissections of the ‘innovation ecosystem’, all provided much food for thought for me, although I am not sure how this will all feed in to future party direction.
More concretely, however, it was really useful to catch up with Chi Onwurah’s plans for a Labour science policy. The Shadow Minister’s five point plan for science is still in development, but the sneak preview provided at the Science Council fringe suggested that Labour will advocate a long term investment framework for research (something that the Royal Society has called for in The Scientific Century) and will seek to find ways to incentivise industrial investment in innovation – an area, as Paul Nurse has pointed out, in which the UK has underperformed in relation to its global partners and competitors.
I look forward to seeing how this five point plan comes together. Last week we saw the Lib Dems approve a policy motion on their plans for science, which the Society, with others, welcomed as a political recognition of the value of research to the UK. I hope that we will soon be able to also welcome an ambitious Labour plan for science and innovation (the building blocks seem to be there), and who knows, maybe the Conservatives will come up with a version of their own too?