Sunak creates Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

New entity will bring together components of BEIS and DCMS – which returns to a culture-specific brief

Credit: Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay

Prime minister has announced plans to create a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology as part of a major shake-up of Whitehall’s departmental structures.

According to its embryonic website, the newly created department will “brings together the relevant parts of the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the former Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)”.

In a reversal of its 2017 rebrand, DCMS has lost the word ‘digital’ from its name, and will now focus only on the other three policy areas under its watch: culture; media; and sport.

It said creating a stand-alone culture department – led by newly appointed secretary of state Lucy Frazer – demonstrates “the importance of these industries to our economy and build on the UK’s position as a global leader in the creative arts”.

Digital had previously become by far the biggest portion of DCMS’s remit, with figures published in 2020 suggesting that about 70% of its personnel were dedicated to working on policy and projects in this area. 

Moving alongside the digital brief is former DCMS secretary of state Michelle Donelan, who has been installed in the most senior ministerial post at the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

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Downing Street said the new department would “drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy”.

It said that having a single department focussed on turning scientific and technical innovations into practical, appliable solutions to current challenges would “help make sure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world”.

As well as contributing to the new tech and innovation department, the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is being split into two new agencies. 

The first of these of a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, to be led by BEIS secretary Grant Shapps.

The second is  the Department for Business and Trade, which will also incorporate the duties of the Department for International Trade, which has been scrapped as part of the shake-up.

‘As smooth as possible’
Former international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch will lead the new business department, which Downing Street said would “support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade”. Badenoch will also remain as president of the Board of Trade and minister for women and equalities.

In an email sent to all civil servants – and seen by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World – cabinet secretary Simon Case said that everything is being done to make the departmental changes as “smooth as possible”.

“I know these changes may be unsettling for staff in affected departments and that you will have questions about how they impact you. Your permanent secretaries will already be speaking to you about next steps and the vision for your new departments and together we will work quickly to settle the new structures,” he wrote.

Civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm is meanwhile “ensuring the right corporate structures are in place to support staff through the transition”, Case said.

The cabinet secretary said the changes “will make sure that we are set up in the best way to deliver for the priorities of the government”.

“This is a significant set of changes and, while we have done everything we can to make them as smooth as possible, there will of course be many important details to work through over the coming days and the changes will take some time to bed in,” he wrote. “As ever, I am grateful to you all for the work you do every day up and down the country to serve the government and the citizens of the UK and I know you will remain focused on the task at hand as we adapt and modernise to best support the prime minister and his ministers.”

PublicTechnology staff

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