Science infrastructure gets a boost in the Autumn Statement

Posted on December 5, 2012 by

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The Chancellor George Osborne as announced £600 million for science infrastructure alongside more money for schools and transport in his Autumn Statement, but cuts in other areas as he says Britain is facing a longer-than-expected battle to reduce its debts.

Background

The Statement is one of two big statements made by the Chancellor each year – the other being the budget – that provides an update on the Government’s plans for the economy based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, which are published alongside the Statement.

Last year, the Government put the life sciences centre stage of their plan for growth with a Life Sciences Strategy, which set out steps they would take to support the sector. And more recently George Osborne talked about the importance of science to the UK economy in a speech at the Royal Society, highlighting regenerative medicine as one of eight key areas that the government would focus on. The Government also asked Lord Heseltine to review strategies that the UK could take to promote growth. In his report Lord Heseltine called for funding of science and research to keep pace with our competitors so that Britain could attract inward investment on the back of its research excellence.

What has been announced in the Autumn Statement for medical research?

Government will invest £600 million in Research Council infrastructure, and facilities for applied R&D. This investment will support the development of innovative technologies and strengthen the UK‘s competitive advantage in areas such as big data (which could include health datasets) and energy efficient computing, synthetic biology and advanced materials.

So it’s not clear if any of that money will directly benefit medical research but the Statement does say that we can expect to hear more from David Cameron later this month in a “one year on” update on the Life Sciences Strategy.

The Statement also says that reductions to departmental resource budgets in 2013-14 and 2014-15 will not apply to the NHS, which spends over £900 million on research each year.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), which will be coordinating the new money, has listed parts of the Statement relevant to the department on their website.

What next?

The government cut spending on science capital projects in the 2010 comprehensive spending review  so this £600 million is welcome and goes some way to repairing that shortfall. The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) has welcomed the announcement and released new anlaysis of science spending to take the Autumn Statement into account.

We are expecting the update on the Life Sciences Strategy next week.

George Osborne also said that there will be a spending review announced in the first half of 2013. We will continue to work with our members and partners to make the case to Government for investment in medical research. This promises improved healthcare for people here in the UK and overseas and sustainable economic growth in the UK.

Posted in: Policy