Tag Archives: Coalition Government

What the Party Leaders have to say on science and engineering

Party LettersThe political parties have today set out how they would support science and engineering if they are put into power in the General Election on May 7th.

The commitments are set out in letters to CaSE, which wrote to the leader of every political party with at least one MP in Westminster, sending them our election briefings and asking them how they will support science and engineering in the next Parliament. Read More »

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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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‘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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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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CaSE responds to Autumn Statement 2014

Does government back the Chancellor’s ‘personal priority’ of science?

In this Autumn Statement, science was again singled out as the Chancellor’s ‘personal priority’. We saw indications of intent on how the government will spend the £1.1bn pa capital committed to science for the next five years in announcements of new facilities and research centres.

With many of these located in the north of England, we see how science is being used as a tool in the government’s drive to ‘rebalance the economy’. Announcements on skills and the fiscal landscape for research are welcome, but these need to be part of a coherent cross-government strategy to work. Read More »

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What might the reshuffle mean for science and engineering?

In this Government’s most widespread reshuffle to date we’ve seen multiple changes to people and portfolios that will impact on science and engineering. Read More »

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Goodbye to David Willetts

Science Minister David Willetts speaking at CaSE's 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Former Science Minister David Willetts at CaSE’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Today David Willetts steps down after four years as Science and Universities Minister. Read More »

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CaSE looks forward to working with new Science and Education Ministers

Today has seen change across ministerial responsibilities for universities, science, education and skills:

  • Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, The Rt Hon Dr Greg Clark (Formerly David Willetts – standing down at next election)
  • Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan (Formerly Michael Gove – appointed Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
  • Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Nick Boles (Formerly Matthew Hancock – appointed Minister of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy) Read More »
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CaSE responds to the 2013 Spending Review

UK scientific competitiveness at risk’

In response to today’s announcement, which sees maintenance of the science budget at £4.6bn, CaSE has produced a briefing paper on the 2013 Spending Review.

Commenting on the announcement, CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“The signs had been good – the Chancellor had said that science was a ‘personal priority’  and that he was ‘up for the challenge of making the UK the best place in the world to do science’.  But instead the research community is left exposed to competition from the global scientific premier league of nations.” Read More »

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Party Conferences: Did the leaders talk science?

Miliband, Cameron, CleggCaSE has analysed the speeches of David Cameron, George Osborne, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Nick Clegg, and Vince Cable for mentions of science, technology, engineering, maths, research, and innovation.

Vince Cable and David Cameron scored highest, with Ed Balls and Ed Miliband performing less well.

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Party Conferences: New investment welcomed

George OsborneCaSE welcomes today’s announcement from George Osborne of an additional £200m for the Research Partnership Investment Fund – bringing the fund’s total to £300m. Read More »

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Party Conferences: Lib Dems call for science investment

At their party conference this morning in Brighton, the Liberal Democrats passed ‘Developing a Future – Policies for Science and Research’ – a policy motion urging the Government to increase investment in science and research across the UK.

The motion was moved by former scientist Dr Julian Huppert MP, and CaSE contributed to the development of the underlying policy paper.

Read More »

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New science proposals from Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats’ de facto science spokesman, Dr Julian Huppert MP, has published a paper outlining where he thinks the party’s science policy should be heading.

Developing a future” is the party’s first dedicated science policy paper since 1991 – and, more importantly, the first that has been developed while the party is in Government. As an added interest for CaSE, we took part in Dr Huppert’s consultation, and have been eager to see the outcome.

You can read the full policy paper here, but we’ve pulled out some selected highlights below.

Read More »

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Life Sciences in the spotlight

“We can be proud of our past – but we cannot be complacent about our future”

David Cameron, Life Sciences Strategy Launch

Following the focus on the Life Sciences in the Growth Plan, the publication of today’s Life Sciences strategy and the Prime Minister’s speech provide more details on how the Government plans to build on this important area. You can read CaSE Director Imran Khan’s comments here.

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Plans to attract top science and maths teachers welcomed by campaigners

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the UK’s leading independent scientific advocacy group, gave an initial welcome to some of the Government’s proposals around the teaching of science and maths in schools. CaSE will produce a full, considered, reaction to the proposals in due course, highlighting remaining areas of concern.

The Department for Education announced its intention to provide bursaries of up to £20,000 for teacher training in maths, physics, and chemistry. The move comes after CaSE had raised concerns that lack of funding could leave the UK with a serious shortage of teachers able to train and inspire the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

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Commenting on the Science Budget Allocations

Commenting on the Science Budget Allocations, Imran Khan, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:

“The allocations confirm that UK science and engineering faces four very tricky years ahead. While some of our international competitors are looking to the future, British research will be busy retrenching.”

“It is encouraging that the Government has tried to protect research where it can. It looks like capital spending on research will be hit less hard than capital spending across BIS – it’s down 41%, rather than the expected 44%. But this still means a dramatic reduction in investment in equipment and facilities, putting a big dent in Britain’s scientific credentials.”

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Science stays at the top in BIS

CaSE has welcomed the appointment of Prof Adrian Smith as the new Director General for Knowledge and Innovation (DG-KI) at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – the department responsible for the Science Budget.

The appointment comes after concern that, for the first time in decades, the position responsible for overseeing government activity on science was likely to go to a career civil servant with no direct experience of the science and engineering sector.

Imran Khan, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:

“Having an individual of Prof Smith’s calibre and background at the top level in Whitehall is essential. It’s really encouraging that government have recognised the importance of having someone who understands the research sector in charge of science at BIS.”

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Whitehall reorganisation may spell trouble for science

CaSE has registered its deep concern over changes to how science and engineering is represented within the Whitehall department responsible for them, the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS).

Currently, Prof Adrian Smith FRS is the Director General for Science and Research (DGSR) at BIS. As well as being a pivotal figure in the Spending Review process that saw the science budget spared deep cuts, he leads the process by which the budget will be allocated to different areas of science. He is one of a line of DGSR-equivalents who have been appointed from outside the civil service and who have brought an understanding of (and credibility in) the science and research sector to the role.

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‘Brain Drain’ Threat as Government Holds Firm on Immigration Cap

CaSE has responded to the Home Office Consultation on Limits of Non-EU Migration and the  Migration Advisory Council Consultation on an Annual Limit on Economic Migration to the UK

By Katherine Barnes, Science Writer

Backlash over the Government’s interim cap on non-EU migrants continued this week, with scientists and engineers from academia and industry criticising the scheme and warning of its impact on the economy. University leaders are now protesting against a “double whammy”, with impending cuts to the science budget and an immigration cap that limits their ability to bring in top talent from abroad.

The government’s temporary cap on migrants was imposed on 28 June, in order to prevent a sudden swell in visa applications before a more permanent limit is brought in next year, but the limit was based on the number of overseas staff recruited in 2009, in the depths of recession.

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