Chancellor maintains investment in science and commits to the Charity Research Support Fund

Posted on June 26, 2013 by

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George Osborne has announced government spending for 2015-2016. He has committed to maintaining the science budget at £4.6 billion and increased capital investment for science. He has also committed to work with medical research charities, backing the Charity Research Support Fund and endeavouring to make it easier for charities to benefit from Gift Aid. And he has confirmed that he does not plan to move medical education and the MRC into the Department of Health, saying “they’re working well where they are”.

The commitment to the Charity Research Support Fund is great news, but the discussions do not end here as the departments will now be deciding how to allocate their budgets across their responsibilities, and it will take time to see the full impact on health research.

Background

Today’s spending round is for one year, setting out how the government will spend £740 billion pounds of tax-payers’ money between April 2015 and April 2016. This will take us through to the next general election and the new parliament. The next spending round will be decided by the next government.

Budgets are tight and throughout the spending round process the research community has been working together to protect the research budget and make the case for ongoing long-term investment in science and research.

Throughout there have been rumoured changes, including proposals to move MRC and medical education from BIS to the Department of Health – this raised considerable concern about the impact of such a move, read more on this from our chief executive, Sharmila, here.

Medical research charities have worked together to make a strong case for ongoing government investment in the science base and partnership through the Charity Research Support Fund. Cancer Research UK blogged for us on the importance of this and we echoed this message when we released our latest research expenditure data, which illustrates the tough financial climate we are all facing and how important protecting the delicate ecosystem of government, charity and industry investment is to keep the UK a world leader in medical research.

What did George say?

The Medical Research Council and medical education are staying where they are

There were rumours that the government was considering moving budgetary responsibility for medical education and the MRC from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Department of Health. The Chancellor confirmed that they have no plans to do so at this point. Referring to BIS he said:

And we’re not going to shift medical training and research out of this department, because they’re working well where they are.

Although this may not mean an end to changes to the research councils as a triennial review of all the research councils is currently underway.

The science budget will be maintained at £4.6 billion and capital investment in science will increase in real terms to £1.1 billion. And this capital investment is committed to 2020 – the end of the decade

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has taken an overall cut of 6% to its budget –  through savings to student maintenance and cutting the costs of the central department. But on the science budget the Chancellor said:

Scientific discovery is first and foremost an expression of the relentless human search to know more about the world but it is also an enormous strength for a modern economy.

From synthetic biology to graphene – Britain is very good at it.

And we’re going to keep it that way.

I am committing to:

  • maintain the resource budget for science at £4.6 billion;
  • increase the capital budget for science in real terms to £1.1 billion; and
  • maintain that real increase to the end of the decade.

Investment in science is an investment in our future.

So yes, from the next generation of jet engines, to cutting edge super computers, we say: keep inventing, keep delivering, this country will back you all the way.

We have been calling for a long-term commitment to invest in the UK’s science base so this commitment is welcome. It is also good that the need for long-term stable investment in scientific infrastructure has been recognised with the commitment until 2020.

Maintaining the resource budget for science at £4.6 billion is a cut in real terms although David Willetts has said previously that he hopes efficiency savings such as universities sharing big pieces of equipment can help offset the effect of inflation.

The government will continue to back the Charity Research Support Fund

AMRC and our members have repeatedly emphasised the importance of government partnering  charities to fund medical research via the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF) and the need for an ongoing commitment to this fund.

This fund allows charities to spend their supporters generous donations directly on research. Breast Cancer Campaign have been running a campaign to demonstrate how important CRSF is and the leaders of more than 40 medical research organisations and 130 eminent scientists  wrote to the Telegraph last month to call on the government to maintain its commitment to protect the funding of medical research.

Our latest research expenditure data released last week further demonstrated how important government partnership is to enable charities to maintain their investment in UK research in tough economic times.

Today the Chancellor recognised this saying:

And let me respond directly to the Breast Cancer Research campaign so many have taken part in.

We will continue to back the Charity Research Support fund and look into making it easier for these organisations to benefit from gift aid.

£185 million for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to support innovation

This includes money for Catapult Centres and the Biomedical Catalyst although we don’t yet have the detail over how this will be allocated. The Biomedical Catalyst which aims to provide support for ideas to move from proof of concept to clinical development has been initially successful (read more about the projects it has supported here) and the BioIndustry Association have been campaigning for further investment.

What do we think?

Maintaining the science ringfence is good news, the effects of inflation does mean that this represents a drop in real terms when of course in the ideal world we would like to see an increase, but this is a relatively good outcome in a tough economic climate. And the government’s recognition of the need to make a long-term stable investment into scientific infrastructure is welcome after recent cuts to capital.

Our chief executive Sharmila Nebhrajani has commented today:

“George Osborne has shown himself to be a true partner of patients by investing in science. The public make medical research their number one charitable cause and the government’s commitment to partner their generous donations through the Charity Research Support Fund has added 25p to every charity pound invested in universities.

“We agree with the chancellor that medical education and research are working well where they are and are pleased to see his commitment to keep them within BIS.”

What next?

Now each of the departments has their overall budget allocation, the debates will continue as they decide how to spend their share across all their different responsibilities. In the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, this will include decisions over how to allocate funds among the research councils.

Posted in: Policy