Brussels, 09 Mar 2005
The UK government has outlined how it intends to apportion the new GBP 10 billion (14.44 billion euro) three-year science budget announced in 2004. Winners include biotechnology, which will see its funding allocation for the next three years rise to over GBP 1 billion (1.44 billion euro).
The Medical Research Council will also receive GBP 1.5 billion (2.16 billion euro), just under one third of which will be allocated to clinical research into diseases such as mental health, strokes, cancer and diabetes.
Technology transfer, nanotechnology, energy research and engineering are also set to benefit from increased budgets. The government has also confirmed that it will invest GBP 500 million (722 million euro) per year for three years in the building of three new laboratories.
'Science and innovation are central to improving the environment in which we all live, the nation's health and ensuring the success of the UK economy,' said Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, announcing the new figures.
'Government spending on UK science will be the largest ever investment by any government in British science and will rise to over GBP 3.4 billion [4.9 billion euro] a year by 2008. This is a testament to our commitment to make the UK the best place in the world to do science,' she said.
The UK is already one of the world's top performers in terms of science. With only one per cent of the world's population, it undertakes five per cent of the world's research, produces nine per cent of all papers and has 12 per cent of all scientific citations.
With a general election expected to take place in the UK before the summer, research investment has become an election issue for the main political parties. Labour MP and former Conservative science minister Robert Jackson told the press on 8 March that: 'The basic problem with the Conservative approach is a philosophical one, the failure to understand the critical importance of science, of university research and development, to a modern knowledge-based economy.'
Save British Science has welcomed the funding announcement, although expressed concern at the way in which government funding allocations dictate what research is to be carried out. 'It's great that new money is coming in for science, and a very positive political signal that the Prime Minister is personally involved in the announcement,' said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Save British Science. 'But we are increasingly seeing politicians dictate the scientific questions that the Research Councils must ask, giving specific allocations for things like energy research and biotechnology. Those things are important, but so is blue-skies research with no obvious application. Without it, we would never have had things like genetics and biotechnology in the first place.'
For further information on the UK's science spending plans, please