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UK chief scientific adviser offers help to Ukraine

Image: Number 10 [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr


Angela McLean extends opportunity to discuss UK analysis of Ukraine’s science and technology landscape

The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, has offered help to Ukrainian scientists and officials as the country considers plans for its recovery amid the ongoing war.

McLean, who heads up the Government Office for Science, said her team would be “happy” to discuss and share a recent analysis it has undertaken of the science and technology landscape in Ukraine, in what she described as a “modest and specific offer of help”.

“We think our outsider eyes could be useful in helping [Ukraine] to evaluate the position of [its] science and technology base, and certainly offer a different viewpoint,” McLean said, as she made the offer on 15 May during a conference held by the Royal Society.

She added the UK-Ukraine conversations on the analysis could help the country “think about opportunities for growth and collaboration, not only with the UK, but other countries too”.

McLean said science and technology will “surely be critical” to the process of Ukraine rebuilding—both for economic growth, and for social recovery from individual and collective trauma.

The analysis carried out by the Government Office for Science found that before the invasion by Russia, Ukraine was “highly active” in artificial intelligence research, judging by publications, McLean revealed.

Traditionally, Ukraine has been strong in technologies such as superconductors, advanced polymers and novel fuels, according to the analysis, McLean added.

She said there is a “clear history” of collaboration between the UK and Ukraine with more than 3,000 co-authored publications between 2017 and 2021.

UK support

The UK R&D sector has already offered a range of support to Ukrainian scientists, including a government-supported twinning scheme from vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK. There are already over 130 partnerships under the scheme, which helps UK universities partner with Ukrainian institutions to share resources.

The British Academy helped to set up a £13.3m government-backed fellowship programme for those fleeing the war, in partnership with the Council for At-Risk Academics. The scheme has so far supported 177 Ukrainian academics and 200 of their dependents to relocate to the UK.

At the conference, Denys Kurbatov, deputy minister of education and science in Ukraine, said the fellowship scheme was “essential and vital”, adding that the country is “very grateful” for support from the UK to its scientists.

More to do

Olga Budnyk, an adviser to the president of Ukraine on the Presidential Fund for Support of Education, Science and Sport, told conference delegates of the challenges the country faces in higher education.

As territories are still occupied, there are a lot of internally displaced universities and educational establishments, Budnyk said, and there are still not enough bomb shelters at higher education institutions.

She said the government will need to reintegrate its territories and believes educational establishments, such as universities, can become centres of regional development.

“We want the universities to rethink their role and become not just educational places… but also we want them to generate ideas for the government.”

As the UK is well versed in scientists providing ideas to government, Budnyk said the country can help Ukraine gain the experience it “badly needs”.

She added: “As a result of this conference, we want to start a partnership that would help Ukrainian scientists learn from UK scientists and start doing similar things [in supporting government].”