Recent highlights

These posts are some of the recent highlights from the CaSE blog. To see all of our recent news and commentary, please see our full blog.

CaSE responds to 2015 Budget

In today’s budget the Chancellor stated that “future economic success depends on future scientific success”.

A successful long-term economic plan must therefore have a long-term plan for science at its core. He said the government was “choosing the future…choosing jobs… choosing the whole nation”. To do that the Chancellor, and the next government, must choose to increase investment in science and engineering over the long-term.

However, CaSE analysis shows that a £1bn real-terms shortfall in investment in the UK research base has accumulated over the course of this Parliament. Even taking into account the capital investment of £1.1bn a year in real terms, this shortfall will be over £2.3 bn by 2020 if current government spending policy continues.

CaSE Acting Director, Naomi Weir, said:

“For future economic success we can’t continue to rely on the UK’s historic scientific success, great though it may be. If the government wants sustainable growth it must reverse the squeeze on British science and engineering and instead increase investment in the UK research base.”

Research commissioned by CaSE shows that government investment in science and engineering boosts the economy; stimulates private sector investment, raising productivity, and creating more high-value jobs.

CaSE calls on the government to set an ambitious upward trajectory for public investment in science and engineering so that the UK can reap the benefits of a thriving, world-leading research base.

The resource ‘Science Budget’ has been eroded by  £1 bn in real-terms since 2010 and  this is set to increase to almost £3.2 billion by 2020 if the flat-cash ringfence policy is continued by the next government.

CaSE Acting Director, Naomi Weir, said:

“Major investment in scientific infrastructure is very welcome and necessary, but to be most effective it must go hand-in-hand with funding for the scientists conducting the research and their project costs. It may not make for great headlines in the short-term, but ensuring that there is sufficient funding for the ideas and people that make British science great will be essential for our future scientific, economic, and national success.”

CaSE calls on the government to make the most of its long-term commitment to capital investment in science by matching its resource commitments to capital so that our world class facilities can be used to their full capacity.

Unpicking the detail of the budget – what’s new and what’s not

Today’s budget includes some very welcome announcements of new money for science and innovation, totalling over £240m. It also contains new details on how previously announced, but unallocated, funds will be spent.

New money

  • £40m for demonstrator programmes, business incubator space and a research hub to develop applications for Internet of Things (Innovate UK)
  • £100m for R&D into Intelligent Mobility – driverless car technology (Innovate UK)
  • £11m for tech incubators in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield (Innovate UK)
  • £11.8 million in a new Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Sustainability Metrics in Harpenden, Hertfordshire (Industrial Strategy spend)
  • £20m to Health North to promote innovation through analysis of data (Department of Health)
  • £60m new Energy Research Accelerator (part Innovate UK, part Research Councils spend – details tbc)

New details on old money

  • Up to £30m to the Francis Crick Institute from the sale of MRC assets (depending on the sale value)
  • £10m on digital currency technology (from existing EPSRC budget)

The Chancellor also outlined how £538m of previously announced capital would be spent. The below will come of the £900m capital that remained unallocated after the results of the capital consultation were announced at the end of 2014.

  • £138m for UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), subject to a satisfactory business case and the provision of substantial co-funding. It will have hubs in London, and further centres initially in Birmingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton.
  • £400m to 2020-21 for the next round of competition-based scientific infrastructure funding (the next round of RPIF)

The Chancellor also announced the government’s intention to introduce income-contingent loans for PG research students. This will now be openly consulted on alongside the planned consultation on opening up loans for PG taught students. Questions will include how the PGR loans could interface best with existing funding for research – including the principle of funding excellent research, working in partnership with industry, charities and other partners, and how they can make the UK offer for PG researchers internationally competitive.

 

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CaSE 2015 Budget Briefing

New CaSE analysis shows that the UK research base has lost over £1 billion of investment over the course of this Parliament due to the government’s flat-cash ringfence policy.

It also reveals that if current government policy is maintained, overall funding for research will continue to be eroded by inflation despite recent capital spending commitments, with the overall shortfall reaching £2.3 billion by 2020.

CaSE has analysed investment since 2010 in the UK research base, composed of the resource ‘Science Budget’ and capital budget, over the term of this Parliament, comparing it to what would have been spent if 2010 budgets had been maintained in line with inflation. The analysis looks at overall research base investment and how the resource and capital budgets have individually affected investment in science and engineering. It also looks at planned investment in the next Parliament (2015/16 to 2019/20).

Key points:

  • A £1 billion real-terms shortfall in investment in the UK research base has accumulated over the course of this Parliament.
  • This shortfall will be over £2.3 billion by the 2020 general election if current government spending policy continues.
  • The resource ‘Science Budget’ has accumulated a £1 billion real-terms shortfall over the course of  this Parliament and this is set to increase to over £3.1 billion by 2020 if the flat-cash ringfence policy is continued by the next government.
  • Research capital investment has been unstable over the course of this Parliament but has not resulted in a significant shortfall overall. Due to the current government’s £1.1 billion per year investment plans, accumulative capital investment is predicted to be £800 million higher over the period of 2010/11 to 2019/20 than if investment only rose with inflation.

A £1 billion shortfall in investment has accumulated over this Parliament

The total research base budget, which includes resource and capital investment, has increased in cash terms from £5.5 billion in 2010/11 to a planned £5.9 billion in 2015/16. This represents an in-line with inflation increase overall (Figure 1). However, the annual funding shortfalls resulting from the 2010 flat-cash settlement for the resource ‘Science Budget’ have accumulated to a £1 billion loss to the UK research base over the lifetime of this Parliament.

Total investment dropped in 2012/13 and then gradually increased driven by ad hoc capital investments. However, these later investments have not been enough to recoup the money lost from the earlier drop in funding. The analysis shows that an above-inflation increase in investment in the next Parliament will be necessary to make up for money lost to the research base.

The research community is on track to meet the target of £428 million in efficiency savings to be achieved between 2010 and 2015, set by the Wakeham report. The shortfall revealed in this analysis has therefore not been absorbed through efficiency savings. University UK members have raised concerns that the long-term sustainability of research could be brought into question should the Wakeham recommendations be rolled forward into future years with similar expectations of savings.

Increased investment is needed to reverse the shortfall

In the 2013 Spending Review, the government announced that it would increase science capital investment to £1.1 billion in 2015/16, and maintain this in line with inflation each year up to 2020/21. This was reaffirmed in the Science and Innovation Strategy published in December 2014. However, this does not commit the next government, which could change this spending plan. None of the political parties have committed to increasing the resource ‘Science Budget’ from 2016/17 onwards (Note: The Liberal Democrats have said that they will keep the resource ‘Science Budget’ ringfence and increase it in real terms once the deficit is eliminated). If the current flat-cash ringfence is maintained over the next Parliament the accumulated shortfall for the research base will continue to increase (Figure 2).

There will be shortfalls in each year of the next Parliament, based on current government policy of capital investment rising with inflation from a baseline of £1.1 billion in 2015/16 and assuming a continued flat-cash ringfence. The overall loss to the UK research base will reach £2.3 billion by the end of the next Parliament. This acceleration is due to the acceleration in inflation currently forecast for the end of this decade.

There is a growing disparity between resource and capital investment

The resource ‘Science Budget’, distributed mainly by the research councils and higher education funding councils, covers the costs of conducting research, including researchers’ salaries. The capital budget supports the construction of new facilities and the purchasing of large pieces of equipment. In science and engineering, resource and capital is entwined, each equally requiring the other. Resource and capital budgets have been treated very differently by this government and it is unclear how the next government will treat them.

The capital budget was cut by 40% following the 2010 Spending Review. This resulted in a drop in investment in 2012/13 but ad hoc capital spending announcements since then have in fact meant that the 40% cash-terms cut never materialised (Figure 3, capital). Overall, capital investment has almost increased in line with inflation; by the end of 2015/16 the accumulative capital investment shortfall will be £41 million. However, from 2016/17 onwards, capital investment will be above what it would be if 2010/11 spending was maintained in line with inflation. Under current government policy and inflation forecasts, total capital investment is predicted to be £800 million higher than if investment only rose with inflation from 2010/11 to 2019/20.

The primary concern with capital investment has not been the impact of the 40% cut that was feared but instead the instability and uncertainty caused by cuts and the ad hoc announcements of capital. This has led to difficulties in planning for new research infrastructure or upgrading existing facilities, and created uncertainty for long-term research collaborations, including between academia and industry.

The resource ‘Science Budget’ has only had a £130 million cash increase over this Parliament (the Newton Fund introduced in 2014/15 contributed significantly to this) and its value has therefore been eroded by inflation. By the end of 2015/16 there is expected to be a resource investment accumulative shortfall of £1 billion (Figure 3, resource).

If the current flat-cash ringfence is maintained and a new baseline is taken from 2015/16 (to account for the slight cash increase the current government has provided) the shortfall will rise to over £3.1 billion by the 2020 general election. This acceleration is due to the acceleration in inflation currently forecast for the end of this decade.

Figure 3: Investment 2010/11 to 2019/20 (cash-terms)

 

If resource and capital budgets are not tied, the disparity between the two will grow, resulting in inefficient use of public funds.

Government investment in business research and innovation has increased

The government also invests in business-led research and innovation. This is distributed by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) and is not included in the research base analysis above.

Government investment through Innovate UK has increased from £277 million in 2010/11 to an expected £536 million in 2014/15 (Figure 4).

(Note: As reported in Technology Strategy Board Annual Reports and Accounts, listed as “technology grants”, except figures for 2014/15, which have not been reported yet but are anticipated to be £536 million in the Technology Strategy Board Delivery Plan for 2014/15).

This represents an 80% real-terms increase and has largely been driven by investment in catapult centres, which were introduced in 2011.

Notes

  • Research base investment data used in this analysis was obtained from government allocations documents (here and here) and additional allocations, accounted for in annual Budget and Autumn Statement documents obtained from the gov.uk website.
  • The data presented here does not include other areas of government spending, such as departmental R&D spending, and R&D tax relief.
  • The latest Office for National Statistics figures (2012) show a downward trend in government R&D spending since 2009 (Note: these do not account for tax relief), also analysed by CaSE, with reductions in expenditure in constant prices, driven by the Research Councils, Higher Education Funding Councils, and the Ministry of Defence. These figures are expected to be updated in June 2015.
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Recent Round-Up

CaSE has published its March 2015 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

  • Ahead of the Election, CaSE has been inviting Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to write for CaSE on why science and engineering is important to the UK and how they would support this as a Member of Parliament. So far we’ve received over 100 responses from candidates and we’ll be publishing their comments regularly in the run-up to May 7th. Read More »
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CaSE welcomes Imperial College London as members

Imperial College Provost, James StirllingImperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Located in the heart of London, it is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.
Read More »

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Parliamentary Candidates write for CaSE

Ahead of the 2015 General Election CaSE has been contacting Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs), inviting them to write for the CaSE website on why science and engineering is important to the UK and how they would support this as a Member of Parliament.

20% of the UK workforce is now employed in science and engineering roles. We believe that the electorate care deeply about scientific issues and would like to hear more from their candidates on the importance of science and engineering to the long-term future of the UK. Read More »

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CaSE responds to changes to GCSE practical science assessments

Ofqual has announced the adoption of a new approach for GCSE science practical assessment that will use written exam questions in place of controlled assessment.

Each exam board will have to specify a minimum number of practical activities that students must complete in class, set no lower than 8 in each individual science subject and 16 for combined science. Each school will be required to confirm that they have enabled their students to do the full range of practical work and students will be required to keep a record of their work. Read More »

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CaSE responds to Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees

Ed Miliband has today announced that a future Labour government would cut university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000. The announcement comes with the assurance that the policy is ‘fully funded’, paid for by a cut to tax relief on the pensions of higher earners. Read More »

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CaSE welcomes new member 1E

1E are a Software Lifecycle Automation company that empower the world’s largest and most distributed organisations to simplify and speed up the complete software lifecycle. With regional offices in New York, Dublin and New Delhi, their global headquarters are in West London.

Their customers consist of public and private sector companies, including Dell, ING, Nestlé, BNP Paribas, Ford Motor Company and the UK Department of Work and Pensions, who they have helped save more than $2.5bn through the use of their technology. Read More »

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Science and engineering courses continue to increase in popularity

Last week the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) released data for the number of students starting degree courses in the 2013/14 academic year.

Enrolment on science subjects (in which HESA include engineering, medicine and maths) was up 8% on the previous year and 21% in the past seven years* (from 2007/08). The social sciences, arts and humanities saw a 5% increase in student numbers on the previous year and a 10% increase from 2007/08. The total number of students starting higher education increased by 5% from 2012/13 and by 13% from seven years ago. Read More »

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Evidence Matters

Using reliable evidence honestly and effectively is crucial to making policy in the public interest – while its misuse means that opportunities for improving social outcomes are missed.

With the general election less than three months away, politicians and the media will bombard us with claim and counter-claim about the best ways to reduce crime, educate our children and care for the vulnerable – but how can the electorate know what to believe? Ask for Evidence is a new tool developed by Sense About Science for the public to hold politicians, commentators and others to account for how they use evidence – helping to sort policy claims that are backed by evidence from those that aren’t. Read More »

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Building a Stronger Future – National Academies

This Spring will see UK citizens go to the polls and exercise their right to choose who governs the country. The last election saw the formation of the first coalition government since the Second World War, and we do not yet know what 2015 will bring. These are uncertain times. Read More »

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Returners to Bioscience

The UK is facing a skills shortage. Everyone is saying it – from David Cameron to Paul Nurse – but what can we do about it? One potential source of talent lies within the so-called ‘returners’ community; those who have taken extended career breaks but often face difficulties in trying to return to work. Read More »

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Recent Round-Up

CaSE has published its January 2015 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

  • CaSE has launched our top ten actions we want to see the next government take to champion science and engineering. #ChampionSTEM
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The CaSE 2015 Cross-Party Debate

(L-R) Liam Byrne MP, Dr Julian Huppert MP, Dr Greg Clark MP, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main, and Royal Society Vice-President Prof Alex Halliday

On 14th January 2015 CaSE brought together the science spokespeople of the three main parties to debate which party would best promote science and engineering if they were to gain power in the 2015 general election.

On our panel was the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Dr Greg Clark MP; his shadow counterpart in the Labour Party, Liam Byrne MP; and the Liberal Democrats’ science champion, Dr Julian Huppert MP.  Read More »

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CaSE kicks off the election year with a debate and a call for action

The sold-out CaSE cross-party debate, kindly hosted by the Royal Society tonight, brings together the science spokespeople from the three main Westminster parties to discuss the future direction of science and engineering in the UK. Read More »

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Dr Martin Turner joins CaSE

Dr Martin Turner is the new Policy Advisor at CaSE

I’m really pleased to be joining the CaSE team, especially at such an exciting time with the upcoming general election.

2015 is going to be a critical year for science and engineering. No matter who enters Downing Street, there are going to be tough decisions for government spending and we will have to fight hard to protect investment in our sector. Read More »

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A step in the right direction for immigration

The Conservative party leadership has reportedly rejected proposals by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to force international students to return home after graduation before applying for work visas in the UK.

UK immigration policy currently allows international students to stay if they find a graduate-level job paying £24,000 a year within four months of graduating. Read More »

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‘Best place in the world to do science’ – but not if you’re from abroad?

CaSE Director, Dr Sarah Main said:

“I am dismayed that the Government seems intent on thwarting its commitment to make ‘Britain the best place in the world to do science’ with immigration proposals that threaten to put off the exceptional scientists and engineers who wish to come here.” Read More »

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Recent Round-Up

CaSE has published its December 2014 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include: Read More »

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CaSE responds to Science and Innovation Strategy

CaSE finds much to welcome in the Government’s science and innovation strategy, but important questions remain unanswered. Read More »

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