Cuts 'threaten vital research'

Scientific research that "touches people's lives" could be lost as a result of Government cuts to funding, leading universities warned today.

Reduced budgets will undermine progress made in science, health and technology over the last 20 years and could also lead to a brain-drain of talent, according to academics.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said the Government will cut its £6 billion-a-year research budget and strip out "mediocrity", with only top-flight work attracting funding.

Citing numerous "tangible" examples such as stem cell success in areas including blindness and trachea transplants and 3D technology for heart disease, five university heads spoke out at a press briefing to argue against the proposed cuts.

Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College London, said: "This is not abstract research.

"This is research that touches people's lives.

"This is what our universities in this country are doing today.

"This is what we fear we will not be doing tomorrow in the event that we fail to convey to the public and to our political leaders what it is that university research achieves."

Prof Grant, who questioned what economic case for long-term growth would conclude that research was not relevant, added: "I think one of the greatest risks is that the investment in science and research that has occurred in the last two decades runs a very serious risk of being squandered if we are unable to maintain the intensity of research that we have achieved and the efficiency with which we do it then we are about to lose a national asset of great importance."