LONDON – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is creating a separate science, innovation and technology department as part of a wider shake-up of UK government ministries.
Michelle Donelan, who previously headed the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been appointed Secretary of State for the new Science and Technology-focused Ministry. DCMS sheds its digital brief to focus on culture, media and sport, with Lucy Fraser taking charge of a slimmed-down department.
Sunak, a former hedge fund manager, has close ties to the technology sector. His father-in-law Narayan Murthy was the founder of Indian IT services giant Infosys, and Sunak spent time in Silicon Valley while living in California.
The new digital division comes at a critical time for British technology policy, with the government’s flagship online security bill making its way through the UK parliament and raising concerns about delays in the long-awaited semiconductor strategy.
The new set-up is already being welcomed by some technology lobby groups. “The creation of a new science, innovation and technology department is good for British tech startups,” said Dom Hallas of trade body COADEC. With the experience of digital policymaking from DCMS, BEIS realizes the real meaning.”
On the science front, Britain’s involvement in EU programs such as the Horizon Europe research and development framework and the Copernicus Earth satellite observation project remains up in the air amid ongoing disputes over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.
Sunak’s shake-up has seen trade minister Greg Hands become chairman of the Conservative Party, while the trade and business departments are being merged and a dedicated energy ministry is being set up.