Major fillip for research

December 14, 2007

The Government is to channel £1.3 billion into four research areas that it thinks represent the biggest challenges facing the nation, writes Melanie Newman.

The investment in researching climate change, ageing, energy and global security will bring together scientists from across the seven research councils. A further £100 million will be spent on multidisciplinary programmes covering the digital economy and nanoscience.

The funding was announced this week in the Allocations of Science Budget for the next three years, published by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Research Councils UK chairman Ian Diamond said: "In addressing major societal challenges, we will build partnerships between the best researchers in the UK and overseas."

He added: "By stimulating these relationships we can ensure not only that the research is world class but also that its non-academic impact is maximised."

Universities Secretary John Denham also announced that he had asked Professor Diamond to undertake a series of reviews into the health of key disciplines. The first review will be on physics, led by Bill Wakeham, vice-chancellor of Southampton University.

Key allocations of the science budget include almost £2 billion for medical research over three years to fund both basic research and "translational" research - applied research where findings translate directly into medical applications.

The Medical Research Council is to receive £682 million a year by 2010-11. Seven per cent of the total cash over three years (£132 million) will be spent on boosting the economic impact of research via translational medicine.

Academics had feared the Government's drive to increase translational medicine would affect budgets for pure research.

The MRC's investment of £132 million in translational research in the next three years would be aligned with Department of Health strategies, according to the MRC's delivery plan, which was published this week.

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