Science receives £67m boost

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The Independent Online
British scientists will receive a £67m boost to help industry develop products ranging from vaccines to lipstick, the Government announced yesterday.

The cash is part of a total science budget for 1995-96 of almost £1.3bn which was outlined yesterday by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, David Hunt, who is also Cabinet minister with responsibility for science.

Mr Hunt said he wanted to keep up the quality of work in key disciplines such as chemistry, physics and biology, and, at the same time, forge closer links between research and commerce.

But the Government's announcement comes just after the publication of a warning by the influential Centre for the Exploitation of Science and Technology (Cest) which says setting up research links between universities and industry was a futile way of trying to improve British industry's technological competitiveness.

According to Cest: "The Government is likely to be more effective in improving innovation in the UK if it fosters collaboration between companies such that they can learn about best practice in technology from each other, rather than just linking universities to companies through collaborative research".

The difficulty is not that there is a lack of scientists feeding ideas and discoveries through to industry, the Cest analysis continues, but "the real problem lies on the demand side [with] companies not knowing how to absorb new technological ideas and manage them for commercial benefit".

Sir Dai Rees, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, welcomed a 3 per cent rise in the MRC's overall grant, and was especially pleased by the extra funding for genetic research [an extra £9m] which he said was "one of the most exciting scientific endeavours of the century".

He added: "Further additional funding will also allow us to develop and extend some of the new initiatives begun last year, in particular the Vaccines Institute."