Coalition responds to MPs' concerns over UKCMRI

The government has dismissed concerns over the decision to base the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation in central London.

September 13, 2011

In May, the Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report into the centre, which will be known as the Francis Crick Institute, in which it said that the rationale for building it in the St Pancras area of the capital was “not overwhelming”.

It acknowledged the benefits that good transport links and proximity to universities and teaching hospitals will bring for the centre, but said that such advantages came at the price of increased construction costs and a site incapable of expansion.

It suggested that it might have been better to build the centre outside the South East, adding that as things stand it would reinforce the concentration of life sciences in the “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

In its response to the report, published today, the government acknowledges that there is an additional cost to the central London location, but insists that this will be outweighed by the benefits.

“The location of the institute was chosen to lie amidst a cluster of centres of scientific and clinical excellence, a deliberate choice to enable interactions with these existing centres,” it says.

“The government agrees with the committee that the costs of constructing an institute of this scale in London are probably higher than they would be elsewhere.

“We believe that these are additional costs are outweighed by the additional benefits of locating the institute close to a large number of existing centres of excellence.”

Other points addressed in the government’s response include questions of safety and security raised by local residents, over such issues as animal rights extremism.

“It is essential that whatever the location of bioscience laboratories, the facilities must have robust security measures in place,” it says.

“The government is satisfied that the institute has risk assessment arrangements in place, and notes that the risks involved are not unique to UKCMRI.”

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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