Brussels, 17 Mar 2005
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown unveiled new initiatives to boost science and innovation on 16 March when he presented to 2005 Budget.
Among the new schemes are the 'UK Stem Cell Initiative', new guidance for small companies claiming R&D (research and development) tax credit, moves to guarantee the increased involvement of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in public sector R&D, a new energy partnership, and the establishment of three new science cities.
The Budget was well received by the UK's scientific community. 'Right at the start, Gordon Brown said he wants to make Britain a great place for science,' said Peter Cotgreave, Director of Save British Science. 'He talked about the need for the UK to show long-term leadership in science. He wants to strengthen research-based and knowledge-based businesses, and wants to cut back on red tape in those areas.'
Mr Brown's report sets the scene by stating that 'In all countries, economic activity is shifting towards innovation and knowledge-driven industries [...]. In this environment, the UK needs to build on its historical strength in scientific research to exploit new technology driven and high value-added areas and secure its long-term prosperity.'
The government's strategy to secure this prosperity, as outlined in the report, involves increasing public investment in the science base, encouraging the teaching and learning of science, engineering and technology, and tackling market failures that prevent companies from investing more in R&D and developing innovative products and services.
The UK Stem Cell Initiative (UKSCI) will be launched in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, various research councils and government departments, and the proposed private-sector led UK Stem Cell Foundation. UKSCI will lead to the formulation of a ten-year vision for UK stem cell research and a platform for coordinated public and private research funding.
Efforts to encourage business R&D will take the form of 'plain-English assistance to claimant companies' hoping to receive R&D tax credit and a consultation on how R&D tax credits can give additional support to growing companies.
SMEs will also benefit from a new mandatory requirement that will see at least 2.5 per cent of the value of government departments' and agencies' extra-mural R&D contracts awarded to them. 'This requirement will further encourage SMEs to enter bids for public sector work, while maintaining value for money and quality of procurement,' states the report.
The UK government's commitment to tackling climate is already well known, with the Prime Minister having pledged to put the issue high on the agenda during the country's G8 and EU presidencies. One way of tackling climate change is to conduct further research into sustainable energy technologies. Mr Brown said that the government will support such research with the establishment of a UK Energy Research Partnership, bringing together public and private funders of energy research with the aim of enhancing opportunities for collaboration and identifying shared priorities for research.
The 2005 Budget also saw the announcement of plans to create three further science cities in Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham. 'Science cities' are described by the government as cities with 'strong science-based assets - such as a major university or centre of research excellence - which have particular potential to use these assets as the basis for generating business success. Following the 2004 Budget work began on developing Manchester, Newcastle and York as science cities. To access the UK 2005 Budget in full, please visit: http:///www.g nn.gov.uk/imagelibrary/detai l.asp?MediaDetailsID=104176