In his Budget speech to Parliament today, George Osborne unveiled the funding, which the government hopes will allow universities to “leverage” another £200 million from the private sector and charities to support long-term research partnerships.
Saying that he wanted to “turn Britain into Europe’s technology centre”, Mr Osborne claimed that creating facilities such as the Francis Crick Institute in St Pancras – a new medical research centre due to open in central London in 2015 – would help achieve that goal.
After the Budget announcements, David Willetts, universities and science minister, said: “As part of our drive in bringing together the business, charity and university sectors, this new £100 million investment could bring in upwards of £200 million additional private funding to help stimulate innovation and secure our high-tech future.”
The announcement was welcomed by Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol.
“The links between universities and business are already strong, but this will kick-start new research projects, encourage innovation and bind universities and industry even closer together,” he said.
Not everyone was similarly impressed. Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the government needed to go further to support high-technology industries.
“I suspect the government realises that the multibillion-pound, 50 per cent cut made to research capital in 2010 simply is not sustainable.
“Despite difficult times, they are trying to put it right, and it is not going unnoticed. However, simply reversing cuts isn’t going to be a game-changer for the UK.
“We need to be far more ambitious if we’re serious about having a high-tech future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, condemned the cuts to corporation tax also announced in the Budget.
“Starving education of funds, axeing grants such as the education maintenance allowance and hiking up the cost of access to college and university – while authorising billions in tax giveaways to big business – is not the way to get us back on track,” she said.