It is great to see the Liberal Democrats recognising the integral role that a healthy science base plays in supporting and growing innovative businesses. Today’s announcement proposes continuing to ringfence the science budget throughout the next Parliament and is a welcome first step.
However, on its own, ringfencing the science budget will not be sufficient to foster the healthy and productive science base that the UK needs and that parties have stated they want to build. We are now entering a fifth year of a flat-cash settlement for the science budget at £4.6bn with another flat cash settlement agreed for 15-16. The cumulative erosion of the ringfenced science budget will be over £1.1bn from the beginning of 2010 spending review period up to 2015/16. Deflation will continue to affect the research budget every year that flat cash is maintained reducing the capacity and strength of our research base and missing out on the substantial growth opportunities that research suggests investing in science brings. To be most effective, commitment to the ringfence must also come alongside commitment to increasing total investment in science.
CaSE Assistant Director Naomi Weir said:
“We are now in a position where the UK is investing in science at a lower rate than the majority of the EU and the OECD and it may not be possible to sustain its position as a world-leading research nation. Greater efficiency can only go so far. If we’re serious about science, and want to reap the benefits of a healthy science and engineering sector we need to invest.
CaSE wants to see Parties committing to setting out a ten year framework for investment in science and engineering on an upward trajectory that AT LEAST matches growth.”
CaSE will be writing to each of the party leaders in the Autumn setting out the actions, developed in consultation with our members and collaborators, that we want to see reflected in Political Party commitments and taken in the next term of Parliament.
See the CaSE 2014 Budget briefing for further analysis of the Science Budget.
Data for the graph are from R and D funding and specialisation, in OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013: Innovation for Growth, OECD, 2013