Newly appointed Prime Minister Gordon Brown has created a new government Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).
John Denham MP for Southampton, Itchen has been appointed as the secretary of state for the DIUS to oversee the government’s skills and innovation agenda and science budget. Denham's new office inherits this responsibility from the Department of Trade and Industry.
The announcement came as part of Brown’s new Cabinet appointments yesterday and was accompanied by the news that the department will also be home to a new, as yet unnamed, Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser.
Brown said the new department would ensure world-class research and increased business innovation.
The DIUS will also manage the development, funding and performance of higher and further education teaching and research, in partnership with a new Department for Children, Schools and Families to ensure UK Plc’s skills base fully supports better productivity and innovation levels to compete in the global economy.
John O’Brien, senior analyst at Ovum welcomed the creation of the new department. He told CIO UK it showed Brown acknowledged the changing global competitive landscape and the effect that emerging economies such as China and India’s are having on the UK economy.
“It’s obviously early days,” said O’Brien. “But it broadly shows how the government is trying to produce a joined-up view, bringing together bodies responsible for science, learning development and skills.”
As part of its broader skills remit, the DIUS will also take over implementation of the list of recommendations in the education review published by Lord Leitch last year. The investigation into the UK skills needs until 2020 put a heavy focus on IT to foster innovation and competitive advantage.
O’Brien added that the appointment of Ian Watmore as the DIUS permanent secretary was significant. Watmore leaves his role heading up the Prime Minister’s delivery unit to take up this new position.
Aside from the fact his move leaves a vacancy as key advisor on the delivery of the government’s top public service priorities and projects, he said: “This appointment is very significant in the sense that Watmore is a long-term IT expert, having headed up the e-government and transformation agendas. I suspect that, as technology plays such a key role in innovation, that he will play a vital role in the department.”