The North’s answer to the Crick Institute will be a £235 million centre for advanced materials in Manchester, George Osborne has confirmed.
The announcement was one of a string of science-related announcements in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement, delivered on 3 December.
Mr Osborne mooted the idea of a “Crick of the North” in a speech at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in June. The remark was a reference to the £700 million Francis Crick Institute in the life sciences, which is currently under construction in London and will be Europe’s largest research institute when it opens next year.
Mr Osborne announced that the centre will be called the Sir Henry Royce Institute and will be based at the University of Manchester, with “satellites” at the universities of Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. However, a Manchester press release later confirmed that the centre will also have “spokes” at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.
The government has also announced various other investments in the North, including a £113 million Cognitive Computing Research Centre in Daresbury, Cheshire, a £20 million Innovation Hub for Ageing Science in Newcastle and £28 million for a new high value manufacturing catapult centre, known as the Formulation Innovation Centre, in Sedgefield.
But it was not all good news for the North. Mr Osborne also announced that the Alan Turing Centre for big data, announced in this year’s Budget, will be built in London.
The announcements will form part of the government’s annual £1.1 billion investment in science capital between 2015-16 and 2020-21, which Mr Osborne spoke of in last year’s Autumn Statement.
Other projects announced include £95 million for the UK to lead the next European mission to Mars, £31 million in new energy security and innovation centres and £60 million to extend the capabilities of the National Nuclear Users Facility, which permits researchers to experiment on radioactive materials in volumes not possible in university laboratories. An additional £61 million in funding will be provided to the existing High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
But other decisions on capital spending have been postponed until a “process of international peer review” has been carried out on further funding proposals received through the capital consultation, which ran from April to July. A decision on whether to fund them will be taken in the 2015 Budget.
A further £900 million will be spent on proposals to meet future “grand challenges”, and £3 billion will be invested in existing facilities, with more than half being competitively allocated.
Dominic Tildesley, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, welcomed the new announcements.
“Earmarking roughly a quarter of capital science funding for competition by existing facilities is also a step in the right direction but, to truly maximise the impact of science on the economy, we need politicians now and beyond next year’s election to ensure funding decisions are based on fair, open consultation and scientific excellence,” he said.
The full capital road map will be published shortly, alongside the government’s response to the capital consultation.
The publication of the government’s new science and innovation strategy is expected within the next week.