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expert reaction to the autumn statement

In his autumn statement, the Chancellor George Osborne announced an increase of £600m to the science budget.


Prof Paul Hardaker, Chief Executive of The Institute of Physics (IOP), said,

“Science adds significant value to the economy and society so to see it prioritised alongside school infrastructure, fast transport links and new houses is very positive.

“George Osborne, Vince Cable and David Willetts clearly recognise the value that science can unlock for society, but it’s important to remember that investment in science is a long-term commitment. It starts in schools, through higher education into research and to industry, but the pay-off is that we know it delivers growth and jobs to the UK.”


Prof Rick Rylance, Chair of Research Councils UK, said:

“This very welcome investment acknowledges the crucial contribution of research to economic growth and the societal wellbeing of the UK. It will also significantly advance the future of our outstanding research base.

“RCUK is committed to supporting excellent research across a wide range of disciplines and providing access to a full range of world-class research facilities. The funds made available today will underpin the key areas for capital and infrastructure investment identified in our new Strategic Framework for Capital Investment, announced just last month by the Chancellor. Such vital investment allows the Research Councils, collectively, to provide an infrastructure essential for the future sustainability of UK research competitiveness, and it will support the UK in maximising its innovation potential and driving economic growth.”


Prof Brian Cox, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, said:

“The extra £600M for capital expenditure on science announced by the Chancellor today is extremely welcome. George Osbourne has said that his government is up to the challenge of making Britain the best place in the world to do science, and this does indeed seem to be the trajectory we are on. Science and engineering are the route to future economic growth, and with the continuing support of government, I am convinced that the academic and research sectors, in collaboration with industry, will deliver.”


Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, said:

“We welcome the news that £600 million has been made available for investment into science infrastructure. This again demonstrates that the coalition government recognises the critical role science and engineering plays in supporting growth and jobs, health and social well-being. Many of the solutions to the world’s most challenging problems lie, at least in part, in the biosciences and related subjects.

“To deliver on the opportunity of science we need a skilled workforce and an engaged public, and we therefore welcome the promise of £270 million for Further Education colleges and £1 billion for schools. We urge the government to continue to monitor the impact of funding changes to university teaching practices, to ensure immigration does not continue to prevent the UK from attracting the best scientists and students, and to continue its support for professional recognition as continuous learning.”


Director of the Campaign for Science & Engineering (CaSE), Imran Khan, said:

“We were hoping that the Chancellor would continue his trend of supporting science and engineering, and are really delighted with this new commitment – the total amount of new funding since 2010 has now reached almost £2bn.

“Osborne’s consistency shows that he understands the UK must invest in becoming a high-tech nation. In the coming decades we won’t be able to compete internationally on natural resources or cheap labour, so the Government’s plan to build British excellence in areas likes synthetic biology and energy-efficient computing instead is absolutely critical. We applaud the Chancellor for supporting not only fundamental research, but also making science a bigger part of the UK’s industrial strategy.

“We hope that the Chancellor’s next step is to back the recommendations of CaSE and Nesta’s ‘4Growth’ report, which is supported by figures such as Brian Cox and James Dyson and calls on the Government to strategically reinvest the £4bn proceeds from the forthcoming 4G spectrum auction back into science and technology. ‘4Growth’ highlights the once-in-a-generation opportunity that the UK has to continue the rebalancing of the economy, which the Chancellor has made a vital contribution to today.


Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, said:

“Science and innovation are fundamental to our economy and this £600 million takes the total capital investment announced since the Comprehensive Spending Review to over £1.5 billion. It will support high-tech areas where the UK’s research base and industry can gain a competitive advantage, like big data and energy efficient computing, synthetic biology and advanced materials. This will drive growth, create the jobs of the future and help us get ahead in the global race.”


Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said:

“Innovation is the key to sustainable economic growth for the UK and science is the raw material of innovation.  The Chancellor clearly understands this and his ongoing commitment to investing in science, despite the difficult financial circumstances, is very welcome.  We have some way to go to match the public and private investment levels in research and development of some of our competitor economies but we have the advantage of already being truly world class in many areas of science.  The announcement today of an additional £600 million of capital investment will hopefully help ensure that our world leading scientists have world leading facilities with which to work.

“In a speech at the Royal Society last month the Chancellor identified eight areas where he believes the UK already has an edge and these are undoubtedly areas where we are strong and have the potential for application.  However, we must also make sure that we maintain capital and other support across a broad range of science.  We must not narrow our focus too much and risk sacrificing the ideas that will create growth decades from now.”


Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

“I am delighted that the Chancellor has backed the ambitious vision for British science that he set out at the Royal Society last month with this substantial package of investment. He is right to recognise that investment in world-class science and the world-class infrastructure it requires must be integral to any strategy for driving growth, even in times of austerity.”


Dr Dave Reay, Senior lecturer in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“The Chancellor’s ‘gas strategy’ undermines much of the positive action on tackling climate change set out in last week’s Energy Bill. 

“By making gas-fired power stations central to UK electricity supply beyond 2030, the opportunity to realise a truly low-carbon economy has been squandered.  Electricity produced using conventional gas may be less carbon intensive than that from coal, but this strategy still locks us into an emissions future that simply does not square with our national and international obligations on climate change.”

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