£200 Million Funding Increase for UK Scientific Research

The UK government yesterday announced that they are contributing an additional £200 million to the Research Partnership Investment Fund to boost scientific research.

As a result of the government support increasing to £300 million, the total investment is estimated to be a minimum of £1 billion, ministers claim.

The government support has been increased since the launch of the Fund, as a result of it being “heavily oversubscribed, with an overwhelming number of high-calibre bids,” says the Treasury.

The additional money will over double the number of projects that will benefit, potentially accelerating further private and charity sector investment in the research base, and encouraging university and business partnership which will help to promote jobs and growth.

The Research Partnership Investment Fund supports university capital projects, but requires the universities to at minimum double the public funding through contributions from private companies or charities.

Successful applicants for the current round of bidding include Oxford University, working with a number of healthcare companies, the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Cancer Research UK to build a £138 million centre for targeted cancer research to develop, test and implement personalised treatments, diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

Funding for the project, and others, is subject to final due diligence from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is overseeing the Fund, and will announce the complete set of projects in the coming weeks.  They will also issue an additional call for new and reworked proposals in the near future.

Announcing the new funding yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne commented “today, we deliver with some of our leading businesses and universities £1 billion of new science investment in the areas where we lead the world.”

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, noted that “the UK has world-class companies and great universities.  This new investment will get them working together to deliver innovation and growth.”

The announcement was welcomed by pressure group the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), whose director, Imran Khan, added that moving towards a more science-based economy ‘is critical’ if the UK is to have a sustainable recovery.

However, Khan noted that the additional £200 million “still doesn’t offset the huge cuts made to our research base in 2010 – we still have a £1 billion deficit.”

In October 2010, the coalition government cut £1.7 billion from the research base during the period of the current spending review, observed the CaSE.  Since the last review, ministers have announced nearly £600 million of new investment for the research base – £100 million in the 2011 Budget, £195 million at the last Conservative Party conference, £200 million in the 2011 autumn statement and £90 million as part of the Life Sciences Strategy, they added.

While the chancellor is reversing some of these cuts, “we need to go much further or risk getting left behind by our international competitors,” Mr Khan cautioned.

For example, Germany have increased their research and education spending by 19% since 2010, and last month, the Swedish government announced plans for a significant boost to their spending, adding $609 million, or more than 13%, to the annual budget by 2016.


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