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Scientists disappointed that Budget failed to help under-funded research facilities


Science supporters were disappointed that the Budget has failed to address what they see as long-standing problems with under-funded research facilities crippled by rising running costs.

The coalition Government's last two budgets included additional commitments to capital investment in laboratories and equipment. This had reduced the research capital shortfall, which stood at nearly £1.7 billion following the 2010 Spending Review, to just over £300 million.

But Chancellor George Osborne left the shortfall unchanged today, said Beck Smith, acting director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE).

“The string of research capital announcements over the last two years since the Spending Review have almost addressed the shortfall, but just getting us back to zero isn't going to be enough if we're to remain internationally competitive and make the most of our research base,” Ms Smith said.

”Cutting departmental R&D budgets must not be seen as an easy way to achieve the additional 1 per cent cuts to departmental budgets announced today,“ she said.

Professor Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, said: ”Being aware that £11.5 billion is to be cut from departmental budgets on 26 June, we need to remind the Government that science and innovation hold the key to this country's future. We need to deter the Government from inflicting irreparable damage on one of our nation's greatest assets, its science base.“

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said the Government was still not doing enough to support British research and development.

He said: ”An increase in R&D tax credits is good news, but the sad reality is that the Government only spends 0.57% of GDP on R&D; to keep pace with other key countries this should be closer to 0.8%. Our businesses also lack ambition, with the combined public and private sector spend on R&D being only 1.79% of GDP when countries we are competing with are spending around 4%.“