That is the view of Greg Clark, the minister for universities, science and cities, who said that he had brought with him to the portfolio a £12 million budget for local growth and he was “determined to see” science getting “a lot” of it.
Mr Clark was questioned today by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee about the science budget and the government’s Science and Innovation Strategy published late last year.
When asked whether the government’s agenda to embed science in regions could lead to research councils funding projects in places they might not have otherwise considered, he maintained that excellence remained the number one criteria for such decisions.
“The science budget must be allocated very strictly according to Haldane,” he said, referring to the idea that researchers should be decide what projects should be funded rather than politicians.
“But that is not the only source of government funding that is available. Haldane must not be a prison that keeps scientific research budgets unable to access what might be substantial sums of money elsewhere,” he added.
Examples of this money located elsewhere include local authority funding or government funding for regional economic growth. “That should be accessible for universities and research institutes on top of the science budget,” he said.
“I’ve also bought with me to this portfolio a £12 million budget for local growth. I’ve been determined to see that scientific endeavour is getting a lot of that, so I see this as a source of buoyancy in scientific funding,” he told the committee.
He added that the bringing together of the science and universities brief with that of cities is a “long overdue development” in policy. “For many of our cities it is impossible to think of them these days without their universities at the heart,” Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark also defended the decision to launch a review of the research councils less than a year after the last triennial review.
He said the review, led by Sir Paul Nurse, was timed to coincide with the start of the new 10-year vision for science and innovation set out in the government’s strategy and would look at the funding of interdisciplinary work in particular.
“We are very clear that this is only building on the strong foundations of the research councils and we have no intention to redo the triennial review,” he told the committee.
“This is big opportunity to make sure we are rightly configured for the next 10 years,” he added.