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.
- £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.