Government announces new money for research, but scientists say more needs to be done

Yesterday’s budget announcement, in which UK chancellor George Osborne announced additional funding for research and scientific infrastructure, has been cautiously welcomed by scientists.

Along with around £240 million of ‘new’ science money for various projects such as driverless car technology and the Midlands-based Energy Research Accelerator, the budget includes plans for how some previously announced funds will be spent. Of the £900 million capital funding that remained unallocated after the announcement of additional capital investments in 2014, £400 million will be set aside until 2020-21 to support ‘cutting-edge scientific infrastructure’ through the Research Partnership Investment Fund’s next competitive funding round.

Robert Parker, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, welcomed the government’s proposed investment in infrastructure, but said it ‘falls short of building the cohesive, long-term strategy that is needed to make the UK the best place in the world for science and business’. ‘Whoever wins the election in May must continue to build on the commitments in this budget announcement, not least returning government science spend to the EU average of 0.7% of GDP during the next parliament,’ he added.

Naomi Weir, acting director of science advocacy group Campaing for Science and Engineering, said: ‘Major investment in scientific infrastructure is very welcome and necessary, but to be most effective it must go hand-in-hand with funding for the scientists conducting the research and their project costs. If the government wants sustainable growth it must reverse the squeeze on British science and engineering and instead increase investment in the UK research base.’