Government unveils ‘£6 billion commitment’ to UK science

Cancer Research UK

The UK Government has formally set out its 10-year plan for science and innovation in the UK, announcing five key principles that lay out its priorities for research. 

"Ahead of the general election we want all parties to commit to maintain the budget for science" - Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said that UK science infrastructure funding for 2016-2021 will be split roughly 50:50 between funding major new projects and supporting existing facilities.

“We are committing £5.9 billion capital to support UK scientific excellence out to 2021, including investing £3 billion to support world-class researchers and labs in universities and research institutes,” he said.

Clark outlined five key principles that Government says should inform science and innovation – excellence, agility, collaboration, place and openness.

The new Science and Innovation Strategy outlines how Government plans to promote science and innovation in the UK. And the announcement follows previous commitments to put science and innovation ‘at the heart’ of Government’s long-term economic plan.

£900 million of the budget will be put aside into a fund to respond to ‘grand challenges’ as they emerge.

The strategy highlights the importance of balancing researcher’s freedom to ask basic questions fundamental to life (so-called ‘blue skies’ research), and a more focused approach driven by the needs of wider society. 

It also recognises the need to support research that spans different scientific disciplines. And Ministers have tasked Sir Paul Nurse, Royal Society president and chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute, with reviewing how Research Councils – which fund individual projects in universities – can work together to achieve this.  

Charity contributions to UK research were also highlighted, including their role in major collaborative partnerships such as the Francis Crick institute. 

The Government also recognised the importance of research infrastructure in universities and the NHS to support charity research.

Cancer Research UK’s head of policy development, Emma Greenwood, said: “This 10-year strategy shows Government’s commitment to supporting science and research. Much of Cancer Research UK’s life-saving research takes place in universities and hospitals so it’s vital that these institutions provide world-class facilities and receive sufficient support through Government funding.”

The strategy also outlines how Government intends to nurture scientific talent. These measures include a £10,000 loan scheme for Masters students under the age of 30 and dedicated support for women to return to jobs in industry following career breaks.

“This long-term support is crucial to fulfil the Government’s ambition of making the UK the best place in the world for science. And ahead of the general election we want all parties to commit to maintain the budget for science,” added Greenwood.

Money image by George Hodan [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons