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scientists respond to pre-budget report

Responses to Gordon Brown’s announcement of a long-term plan of investment in science education and industry in his pre-budget report.

Professor Ian Diamond on behalf of Research Councils UK, said:

“This government has made a choice – to choose science and technology above many other spending priorities. It has also clearly articulated why Government should invest public money in research by linking economic success, competitiveness and quality of life through to innovation, R&D and back to basic research.

“As the main investors in fundamental research in the UK, we welcome the increase in funding for basic research that will see our collective budgets rise from £2.4 billion this to year to more than £3 billion by 07/08. Research Councils will deploy the majority of the new funds we receive to increase our contributions to the full economic cost of research, boost PhD stipends, invest in renewing research infrastructure and strengthen our knowledge transfer activities. We continue to deliver world-class research in the UK and to punch above our weight in scientific excellence, but increasingly the infrastructure has been creaking in terms of long-term support for facilities and for bringing-on the next generations of researchers.

“The Councils are increasingly working together to look at our role in enthusing young people about the achievements stemming from contemporary research. The Research Councils are committed to playing their role in the delivery of objectives from the recent ten year investment framework for science and innovation.”

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“The Pre-Budget Report underlines the Government’s support for UK science. In particular, the commitment to re-examine the R&D tax credit for mid-sized science based firms and to remove tax barriers to the formation of university spin-offs is very welcome.”

Dr Paul Danielsen, spokesperson for the Institute of Physics, said:

“We support the Government’s vision for British science and want to help achieve it. Education lies at the heart of this. The first step is to invest in the infrastructure of school science teaching and university physical science departments, and to foster a community in Britain that is welcoming to science.”

Dr Simon Best, Chairman Ardana Ltd, (a pharmaceutical company based in Edinburgh), said:

“This is further evidence that this government takes UK science very seriously. In addition there is good news about the removal of tax issue for university company start-ups – this is more consistent with the government stated support for science. Focus on Northern cities is welcomed as there is excellent science all across UK – this development will spark accelerated growth outside London.”

Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Save British Science, said:

“It was heartening to hear the Chancellor mention the importance of science in his first sentence and to hear him talk of scientific genius and world-class universities as British strengths.

“But we have seen in the last week that, chemistry departments are closing around the country. Despite new money, universities are struggling, and the reason is that central interference hampers the benefits of Gordon Brown’s financial investment.

“We support the Chancellor’s strategy, reiterated in his speech today, of increasing university endowments, because that will give them unencumbered funds to use as they see fit. But that is a long-term aim, and this week’s news has shown that there is a crisis in some areas NOW. The reason for that crisis is not just that the need for more money, although new money is always welcome. The problem is that quangos like the Higher Education Funding Council come up with crackpot measures that create utterly unnecessary problems. For example, until this year, universities got twice as much money for each science student as for each arts or humanities student. Then this year, the Funding Council reduced the ratio, so that universities now only receive 1.7 times as much funding for science students as they do for arts students.

“On industrial R&D, we called last week for the rules to be changed on the taxation of spin-out companies, and for the Chancellor to announce more details about how his tax credits are working, and we’re pleased he has announced both of those today.”

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