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UK scientific community comments on the 2011 budget

Scientists and the heads of science-based organisations gave their thoughts on the 2011 Budget and what it means for UK science.


Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said:

On the injection of £100 million of new capital expenditure to science

“In a very difficult comprehensive spending review last year, science did reasonably well.  That was in recognition of the key role that science can play in strengthening the economy and in improving the quality of life and health of the nation.  The downside was a major reduction in the money for the new equipment and facilities our scientists need to do their work.  Today’s budget is hopefully a first step in plugging that gap and is a sign of the government’s continuing faith in and commitment to UK science.  The announcement of an additional £100 million for science facilities around the UK will help create manufacturing and other jobs and will facilitate work that will help tackle key challenges in areas such as health, energy and food.” 

On the Green Investment Bank

“The UK is potentially a world leader in developing new technologies for use in the generation of power.  However, unless we are brave in investing in untried technologies we will not make the breakthroughs required and will run the risk that they will be made and capitalised upon elsewhere.  With a finite amount of fossil fuels, the upward spiral in the price of oil and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – now is the time for the UK to up its game.  The establishment of the Green Investment Bank, with £3billion, sends out the signal that we are ready to start taking on that challenge.” 

On expansion of R&D tax credits

“Private sector investment in research and development in the UK is too low.  British companies invest 1.2% of GDP where as in the US it is 1.9% and in Germany 1.8%.  The Royal Society has advocated expansion of the R&D tax credit, so we are delighted that the Chancellor has decided to take this course of action.  The onus will now be on British firms to be more ambitious in their investment in innovation.”


Dr Mark Downs CEO of the Society of Biology said:

“This budget contains some welcome news for research and vocational training and will help generate growth in the small business sector where the life sciences can make even more of a contribution to our economic, health and social well-being. But, the impact of student fees and reduced teaching budgets at universities remains a worrying unknown future impact on our competitive capability.”


Patrick Vallance, Senior Vice President, Medicines Discovery and Development at GSK said:

“GSK warmly welcomes the Government’s plans to streamline regulation of clinical trials and improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of conducting them in the UK. Added to the Government’s proposal to move forward quickly on a plan to realise the UK’s unique competitive advantage as a location for research using electronic health records, these proposals have the potential to make a real positive difference to clinical research in the UK, with the benefits that brings for both patients and the economy.  GSK also very much welcomes the NHS Chief Executive’s plan to report this year on how to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of medical innovation in the NHS.  All those involved in research, the NHS and industry now have a key role to play in supporting these changes and in enabling the UK to realise its potential as a world leader in the research, translation and diffusion of medical innovation, for the benefits of UK patients.”


Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says:

“The Government has recognised that science and innovation have a vital role to play in the UK’s growth agenda. The £100m additional capital investment in strategically important scientific projects is particularly welcome.

“We are pleased to see a firm commitment from the Government towards reducing the complexity of regulation and governance arrangements for health research through the range of proposals in the ‘Plan for Growth’. This is an essential step towards maintaining the UK’s position as a global leader in medical research. Getting permission to set up clinical trials and other studies in the NHS is currently a major barrier to this research. The proposed introduction of timescales for the NHS permissions process holds promise to bring benefits for both the nation’s health and the economy.

“The moves to encourage charitable giving by reforming and simplifying Gift Aid are good news for the charity sector.”


Simon Denegri, CEO, AMRC, said:

“Medical research charities and patients very much welcome the steps outlined by the Government today to reduce health research regulation and help clinical trials get off the ground more quickly . They are important steps towards ensuring patients will benefit from future innovations in health and that the UK remains a world leader in research.”


Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said

“We are delighted that the government has chosen to make this significant investment in bioscience innovation at the Babraham Research Campus and Norwich Research Park. The new centres will provide the intellectual and commercial environment necessary to support the development of new and sustainable industries and the creation of the Knowledge-Based BioEconomy on which our prosperity depends. These centres are arenas in which new ideas can flourish, helping to accelerate translation of research outputs into valuable new technologies, products and practices.”


Professor Chris Mason,  Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, University College London

“The Cell Therapy TIC will enable the UK’s world-class stem cell science to be translated into safe, efficacious cell-based therapies that are capable of being manufactured at scale in a cost effective manner. The result will be a new, internationally competitive, multibillion pound UK healthcare sector – a win for patients, the NHS, the British cell therapy industry and UK plc.

Without this Cell Therapy TIC, the healthcare benefits from the UK’s government’s investment in stem cell research, hundreds of millions of pounds, would undoubted have been lost to the nation.” 


Professor Sir John Bell , President of the Academy of medical Sciences, said:

“I welcome the recognition the Government has made in today’s Plan for Growth of the vital role research plays in delivering health and wealth benefits. I am delighted to see the steps announced to streamline the regulation and governance of medical research and that the Academy’s recent work has played a key role in the development of these plans. I look forward to seeing how these announcements are developed in the coming weeks and months and to working with all involved to ensure any changes to the regulatory environment in the UK are implemented effectively.”


Professor Sir Michael Rawlins FMedSci, Chair of an Academy of Medical Sciences working group that prepared the report, ‘A new pathway for the regulation and governance of health research’ said:

“The Academy’s report identified the national importance of a streamlined and proportionate system for the regulation and governance of health research for the good of patients, the public and the economy. I am delighted to see that the Government has acted quickly in announcing a package of measures that take forward recommendations from our report. The new Health Research Regulatory Agency must remove some of the current complexity and achieve greater efficiency by acting as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for regulatory approvals.

“Addressing the current bottleneck in obtaining NHS R&D permission will be crucial to delivering new treatments to patients. Streamlining how the providers of NHS services approve research should be the highest priority and linking future NIHR funding to a faster approval process is a welcome step in improving performance.”


CaSE Director Imran Khan said:

“This is important news for our world-leading facilities in Daresbury, Norwich Research Park, the Barbraham Institute, and Harwell. We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to making the UK a world-leader for fields including advanced manufacturing and life sciences, funded out of revenue from the bank levy. The extra funding announced today could be a first step on the path to making science and engineering pivotal to growth.”

“But labs across the country are going to be struggling to make ends meet following the budget cuts announced last year.”

“We have to use the UK’s high-tech base to help overturn our nearly trillion-pound debt. If the Chancellor wants to make the most of his new £100m investment, he should invest in science and engineering to the extent that our competitors, including China and Germany, are doing – or risk our economy lagging two steps behind.”

“George Osborne must build on today’s good news by working with academia and industry to develop a clear, well-financed, and long-term strategy to put science and engineering at the heart of this Government’s growth agenda.”

“The Chancellor said that today saw ‘a budget for making things’ – Britain’s scientists are engineers are ready to step up to the plate and help fulfil that promise, but they need to be sustainably funded to do so.”

Haldane Principle:

Khan added: “It’s reassuring that Government have resisted the temptation to cherry-pick politicised projects, and instead gone with the priorities already identified by researchers. This is properly consistent with the Haldane Principle, which limits political interference in science spending decisions.”

Tax system:

Khan added: “Rebalancing the economy, so that we’re less reliant on financial services and focus more on the knowledge economy, is key.”

“It’s great news for the UK’s small science and engineering businesses that their R&D (research and development) tax credit is going up to 225% by 2012, from 175% now. We urgently need to encourage home-grown industries to exploit the UK’s world-leading research base.”

“We need to make sure that these tax credits can help all SMEs, even when they are in the early stages of their growth and might not yet have taxable profits.”

“The Chancellor also announced that it would be easier for people to write-off tax when they donate artistic or cultural exhibits. It’s disappointing that no similar announcement was made on making it easier for individuals or companies to invest in science and engineering facilities in our universities and research institutions.”

Clinical Trials:

Khan added: “It’s encouraging that the Government has rightly identified reducing approval times for clinical trials as an area for improvement. We’ll need to see the details, but if done correctly it could be a real boost to the UK biotechnology sector, especially given the UK’s world-leading research base in the life sciences.”


Khan added: “Properly supported apprenticeships are incredibly important for the UK’s engineering industries. The Government needs to open a full dialogue with our engineering and manufacturing industries to properly assess the skills they need, and how apprenticeships fit into that skills profile. There are currently barriers for people trying to turn their apprenticeships into recognised qualifications, and this needs to be addressed.”


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