Capital spending on science cut by 40%

Severe cuts in capital funding for the seven bodies which distribute taxpayers' money to scientists will create "particularly significant challenges", their representative council said today.





At the same time, the research councils breathed a collective sigh of relief at not having suffered more.



Science emerged from October's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) with its £4.6 billion budget ring-fenced for the next four years.



Taking inflation into account, this amounts to a cut of about 10% by 2014-15 which, it was hoped, could be offset by "efficiency savings".



However, the CSR settlement did not cover capital spending on buildings, equipment and maintenance, and today, as the Government announced individual budget allocations for the research councils, it was revealed that science infrastructure funding will be slashed by around 40%.



Professor Alan Thorpe, chair of Research Councils UK, which represents the funding bodies, said: "The cut to the capital budgets of the research councils will present particularly significant challenges going forward but we have a good foundation, and excellence with impact will remain at the core of what we do."



He said it was encouraging the research council allocations had "fared so well" given the tough economic climate.



"This allocation as part of the 2010 spending review confirms the value that Government has placed on research investment for the UK," Prof Thorpe added.



Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the budget announcements confirmed that British science and engineering faced four "very tricky years".



Although capital spending on research was being hit less hard than expected, the cuts still amounted to a "dramatic reduction" in investment in equipment and facilities.



This would produce a "big dent in Britain's scientific credentials".



Mr Khan said: "What's especially worrying is that a lot of this capital spending is actually maintenance and other long-term commitments, which can't simply be stopped. The money will have to come from other sources, including research grants, instead.



"There are going to be a lot of very difficult decisions which have to be made over the coming years."



Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said applying the latest inflation forecasts showed that science capital funding could be cut by almost half in real terms.



"Today's announcement confirms that the Government is planning to slash capital expenditure for research," said Mr Ward. "It looks like we could be returning to the dark days of the 1980s and early 1990s when researchers were forced to work in laboratories and facilities that were starved of investment.



"World-class researchers need world-class facilities and infrastructure if they are to provide the advances in knowledge and innovation that drive our economy."



Factoring in the reduced capital expenditure, publicly funded research as a whole will lose around 14% in real terms rather than the 10% projected by the CSR, he said.



While other research councils will see their resource allocations cut by around 3% by 2014-15, the Medical Research Council's share of the pot is being increased by around 5%.



Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Our world-class science and research base is a key national asset, critical to promoting economic growth and to improving all our lives.



"This is a strong settlement which demonstrates the importance the coalition Government places on science and research."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future