“New investments welcome but gear shift needed to win global race”
Below is CaSE’s response to the 2014 Budget. You can also read our our 2014 Budget background paper.
Science and engineering investments
In today’s Budget, the Chancellor continued his welcome enthusiasm for science and engineering saying, “If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind.”
And he put his money where his mouth is and committed £222m to research programmes such as the Alan Turing Centre for ‘big data’ research, the catapult centres for cell therapy and graphene research, and doctoral training centres in science, maths and engineering.
These announcements see the total research budget rise from £5.4bn to £5.9bn over this Spending Review period (2010-2015) which is welcome. Most of that is due to increases in capital, after a cut of over 40% in 2010, which is in line with the government trend in recent years of prioritising capital investment over resource. The recent commitment to invest £1.1bn per year in real terms from 2015/16 to 2020/21 shows that the Government recognises the enormous long term growth potential that comes from investing in science.
Ring-fenced science budget eroded by over £1bn by inflation
However, the cumulative erosion of the ringfenced science budget will be over £1.1bn from the beginning of SR10 period up to 15/16.
CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said:
“The last four years of a flat cash science budget is biting scientists and engineers and squeezing universities. It is also in danger of putting off R&D companies looking to invest in the UK for whom government investment in research is a potent attractor.”
CaSE calls on the government to make the most of its welcome long-term capital investment in science by matching its resource commitments to capital so that our world class facilities can be used to their full capacity.
UK needs to shift up a gear to be in ‘global race’
CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said:
“In order to be in the ‘global race’, the UK needs to be able to compete to attract scientists, engineers, students and international R&D businesses. Our restricted investment in research over the last four years is in danger of affecting the UK’s international appeal as companies look to government investment plans before committing to locate new R&D facilities. Indeed, the UK has seen a drop of 35% in the location of international R&D laboratories.”
A country’s ‘research intensity’ is indicated by the proportion of its GDP it spends on R&D. UK R&D expenditure in 2012 was 1.72% of GDP, the first downward trend for many years, primarily due to decreases in business and government investment. The UK languishes towards the bottom of the G8 and well below the EU-28 average of 2.08% of GDP. Germany, USA and Japan are all approaching or above 3% GDP spent on R&D. China is aiming for 2.5% of GDP by 2020, South Korea 5% by 2022, and Brazil 2.5% by 2022. Unlike our international competitors, the UK currently has no target for increasing investment in R&D.
CaSE calls for the Government to capitalise on their current position and commit to an ambitious long-term target for increasing the level of investment in UK science.
Government spend on R&D at lowest level for ten years
Despite the Government’s enthusiasm and commitments to science investment, government spend on R&D across all departments has seen a reduction of £856m in real terms over the last two years of published data (2009/11 to 2011/12). Total Government spend on R&D is down from £10,545m in 2009/10 to £9,689m in 2011/12. This is the lowest level in real terms since 2001/02. This overall decrease includes any increases to the science budget.
Total expenditure includes Civil and Defence departmental expenditure as well as spend from research councils, HE funding councils and the indicative UK contribution to the EU R&D budget. This reduction is evenly split over the two years with a £428m cut in both years.