UK Science Budget to rise with inflation, scientists breathe sigh of relief

The UK Science Budget of £4.7 billion will rise with inflation, Chancellor George Osborne announced in Parliament on 25th November. British scientists breathed a sigh of relief as their worst funding fears were put to rest.

Ahead of Mr. Osborne’s much-anticipated government spending review, most experts had expected the country’s Science Budget, which had remained flat for the last five years, to continue on its gradual path downhill (in real terms).

For the Science Budget to rise with inflation, this means funds will increase by £500 million each year by the end of this decade, so the Treasury says.

UK Science Budget Mr OsborneThe Rt Hon George Osborne MP in Parliament, where he announced slightly increased funding for science until the end of this decade.

Mr Osborne also announced a commitment to raise the annual budget for science infrastructure from £1.1 billion £1.2 billion, with the increase continuing until the end of the decade.

The Chancellor introduced a new £1.5 billion Global Challenges fund to make sure British science takes the lead in addressing the problems developing nations face while developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge science.

Elizabeth Gibney, writing in Nature News, quoted Professor Lee Cronin, who works at the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, as saying:

“If the science budget is really protected in real terms, then that is good news.”

Commenting on the announcement, Campaign for Science and Engineering Acting Director, Naomi Weir, said:

“I’m delighted to hear the Chancellor backing science with real investment for the next five years. This announcement is great news for the UK and provides a platform to build on for future success.”

“This spending review brings some very welcome good news for UK science. It has delivered real investment in science, a decade of support for an industrial strategy, cash protection for Innovate UK, real terms protection of funding for high-cost subjects in HE, and some much needed protection for adult skills funding.”

“Committing to invest in science and innovation, is investing for the future: creating high-value jobs, driving productivity, and catalysing economic growth. It will have far reaching benefits in education, security and resilience, and health. There are undoubtedly some details to unpick, but it is encouraging on many counts to see that the government has listened to the science community and made an evidence-informed decision to back science and engineering in today’s Spending Review.”

Spending Review – Health research highlights

– To invest more than £5 billion on health R&D (research and development), plus up to £150 million to launch a Dementia Institute and a new £1 billion Ross Fund, to be partnered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

– In partnership with China, the launching of the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Innovation fund.

– The Government commits to investing £10 million in expanding the Healthcare Innovation Test Bed programme.

– £250 million will be spent on the 100,000 Genomes Project to introduce the whole genome sequencing technology in the National Health Service (NHS), including funding for Genomics England.

– £400 million to finance the Public Health England laboratories in Essex to help combat threats such as Ebola and flu.

A lot of catching up to do

Scientists across the UK point out that much work needs to be done to reverse the damage caused by five years with no budget increase.

While the increased spending on infrastructure is a great help, Prof. Cronin said this should be “used to help replace essential equipment and provide the upgrades needed urgently, rather than just fund shiny new projects.”

What did Mr. Osborne say?

During Mr. Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 speech, he said the following regarding science:

“In the modern world one of the best ways you can back business is by backing science. That’s why in the last Parliament, I protected the resource budget for science in cash terms. In this Parliament I’m protecting it in real terms so it rises to £4.7bn.”

“That’s £500 million more by the end of the decade. Alongside £6.9bn in the capital budget too. We’re funding the new Royce Institute in Manchester, and new agri-tech centres in Shropshire, York, Bedfordshire and Edinburgh.”

“And we’re going to commit £75 million to a transformation of the famous Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge, where Crick and Rutherford expanded our knowledge of the universe.”

“To make sure we get the most from our investment in science, I’ve asked another of our Nobel Laureates Paul Nurse to conduct a review of the research councils.”

Citation: Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015,” HM Treasury and The Rt Hon George Osborne MP. 25 November 2015. Part of:Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015.

UK Parliament Video – Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015