Brown talks up UK stem-cell efforts

March 18, 2005

Chancellor Gordon Brown underlined his commitment to making Britain the most attractive country to carry out stem-cell research in the Budget this week.

Mr Brown said: "Stem-cell research holds the key to tackling some of the world's most intractable diseases from diabetes to Parkinson's. I firmly believe that Britain can be a world leader."

He announced a new national network for stem-cell research. Sir John Pattison, former director of research at the Department of Health, will lead an initiative to formulate a ten-year vision for research in the field, creating a platform for co-ordinated public and private research funding.

The Government committed £40 million to stem-cell research in its 2002 spending review, with an extra £20 million promised by the Wellcome Trust. A further £100 million fund has been proposed by UK entrepreneurs.

But stem-cell researchers have warned that there must be sustained investment if the UK is to keep up with California and Asian countries.

Mr Brown said Britain's long-term prosperity lay in science, enterprise and education. But the Budget held few new announcements for the sector.

Mr Brown said universities would be given financial incentives to offer research facilities to businesses. But this did not appear to be new money.

Instead, the next round of the Science Research Infrastructure Fund - worth £500 million a year - will require institutions to submit strategies that "make research facilities more accessible to businesses".

Announcements included:

* Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham are set to follow Manchester, Newcastle and York as designated "science cities"

* George Cox, chair of the Design Council, will lead a review of how universities can help small and medium-sized companies to be more creative

* Further education colleges will receive £1.5 billion over the next five years for renovation

* 17-year-olds in full-time education or unwaged training to get up to Pounds 75 a week in education maintenance allowances and children's benefits.

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