Budget: £100m University Research Pledge For UK

Budget: £100m university research pledge for UK

BBC |March 21, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £100m fund to boost university research in the UK through private sector involvement.

The government was committing the cash for “investment in major new university research facilities”, he said in his Budget speech.

Few details have been released, but the funding is intended to attract outside investment for universities.

Universities and campaign groups say it will help offset cuts to the sector.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the funds would go to “large capital projects” which bring in “significant private investment”, for example joint research facilities.

A spokeswoman said details would be announced soon.

‘Step in right direction’Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Industry and universities have a vital role to play in collaborating to achieve sustained growth in our economy.

“We know from experience that targeted funding can be successful in attracting significant business investment to our university research base. As part of our drive in bringing together the business, charity and university sectors, this new £100m investment could bring in upwards of £200m additional private funding to help stimulate innovation and secure our high-tech future.”

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said the investment was helpful – but not enough.

“These things are very welcome but on their own they are only green shoots,” he said.

“In the UK, the government and industry still invest a smaller percentage of our Gross Domestic Product in research and development than our competitor economies and while that remains the case we will not fulfil the Chancellor’s goal of making the UK into Europe’s technology centre.”

Imran Khan, the director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: “Today’s announcement is the latest in a string of pledges of extra cash for science and engineering, and shows that the government does understand that we cannot have a rebalanced economy without investment in research.

“I suspect the government realises that the multi-billion pound, 50% cut made to research capital in 2010 simply isn’t sustainable. Despite difficult times they are trying to put it right.

“However, simply reversing cuts isn’t going to be a game-changer for the UK. We need to be far more ambitious if we’re serious about having a high-tech future.”

‘Right direction’ In autumn 2010, the chancellor said he was freezing the annual science budget for four years at £4.6bn per year, although when inflation was taken in to account, this amounted to a 10% cut in real terms.

Later, a 40% cut to the sector’s capital expenditure was announced – money spent on building, maintenance or equipment.

The director general of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, Wendy Piatt, said: “The research which takes place in our world-class universities drives long-term and sustainable economic growth. But the first-rate infrastructure needed to facilitate the very best research and teaching cannot be bought on the cheap.

“Today’s Budget announcement … is a step in the right direction, especially following recent cuts to capital spending.

“Let’s not forget that our competitors are injecting vast amounts of cash into their universities, and our leading universities are already under-resourced in comparison with our international competitors.”

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