This is an important moment for British science. Those involved in scientific research in the UK have focused, rightly, on issues thrown up by the Brexit vote: how to approach the potential repatriation of €1bn a year of EU funding for UK-based research; what happens about access to key international partnerships; and how best to allow the world’s talent to continue to work in the UK. These are big questions and how they are resolved matters greatly to sustaining the UK’s global position. The scientific community’s arguments will be most persuasive, however, if they are framed in a way that is compelling in a new political and economic environment. As the government starts to define an economic future for the UK outside the EU, world-class science and innovation can be integral parts of that vision. If the biggest question facing the country is how the UK can best flourish independent of the EU, then any answer needs to be rooted in an assessment of what Britain is best at. In any such assessment, the exceptional quality of our science base would be close to the top of the list. The UK is by any measure the leading scientific nation in the world after the US. Its science base and great research universities are the envy of the rest of the world. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to formulate an industrial strategy. Great British science, one of the UK’s few truly outstanding economic assets, can and should be one of the main building blocks. Mrs May has already recognised this in a letter sent last week to Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, and copied to the Royal Society and the CBI, the employers’ organisation. She reiterated the government manifesto and spending review commitments to protecting science and research funding in real terms. This is hugely welcome. The UK spends more than £6bn a year on research and innovation. This funding has been built up over a couple of decades, under successive governments, and has been protected even when other spending programmes have endured painful cuts. This is something that should never be taken for granted. As a former Treasury official, I was involved in many of these funding decisions, and I am in no doubt that they have been smart microeconomic policy. I think they will become more important, not less, in a post-Brexit world. Making this case to the government is crucial, but taxpayers also need to be convinced that their investment in British science is well spent. It is one of the most important tasks facing UK Research and Innovation, a body launched this year following recommendations made by Sir Paul in his review of the UK’s research funding system. The legislation to create UK Research and Innovation is before Parliament and the organisation will be given the task of answering important questions. These include: Is the UK rigorously prioritising the very best and most exciting science, much of which is cross-cutting and interdisciplinary? Where great science can be commercialised, is this being done effectively? Are scientific research bodies making the most of linkages with Innovate UK, Britain’s innovation agency, which supports exciting developments with some of the country’s most cutting-edge businesses? The case for doing everything possible to build national strengths in science and innovation in a post-Brexit world is compelling – it is the best industrial strategy available. As the government considers its priorities in a new and unfamiliar environment, that case needs to be made – and made well.