You're on, Professor Brian Cox: George Osborne pledges to make Britain world leader in science

 

The Chancellor George Osborne said that he is up to the challenge of astronomer Brian Cox to make Britain the best place in the world to do science as he promised to make scientific innovation central to the country’s industrial strategy.

Making his first speech to the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, Mr Osborne announced future Government support for eight areas of technology where Britain could lead the world.

One of the eight subjects, space and satellite technology, will receive an additional £60m a year – a total of £240m a year for the next five years – subject to negotiations with the European Space Agency, Mr Osborne announced.

Another area, synthetic biology which aims to design, engineer or replicate biological systems for industrial use, for instance by creating new forms of microbes that can eat industrial waste, will receive a research boost of £20m, he said.

However, the Chancellor refused to be drawn on whether he agrees with Professor Cox who has argued for a doubling of the £4.6bn science budget by using the money that the Government will raise from the auction of the 4G mobile phone spectrum to spend on scientific research.

“We don’t know how much we will get from the sale. It looks like the auction is on for next year, and we will then make the decision on how to spend the money,” Mr Osborne said.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering, which has organised a petition in support of reinvesting the 4G spectrum money in science, said that the Chancellor is saying the right things but this needs to be reflected in his future decisions.

“The forthcoming auction of the 4G spectrum will be a good test. That £4bn-ish revenues are a return on past investment in science and technology, and should be reinvested,” said Imran Khan, the director of the campaign.

In addition to Professor Cox, the 4G petition has been signed by the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, a former president of the Royal Society, and Nobel scientist Professor Andrei Geim – both of whom were praised by Mr Osborne.

In his speech to the Royal Society, Mr Osborne said that he recognises the economic benefits of scientific excellence which is one of the reasons why the Government, with advice from the scientific community, has earmarked eight future technologies where the UK could be world-leading.

The list includes regenerative medicine, agricultural science, energy storage, advanced materials and robots. Britain already excels in all of these areas but with extra direction and support from Government, the country could outperform other countries, Mr Osborne said.

“It is not the government who creates the scientific innovation, or translates into growth. But we can back those who do. And as a government and as a scientific community we need to be willing to identify Britain’s strengths and reinforce them,” Mr Osborne said.

Sir Paul Nurse, the current President of the Royal Society and a Nobel Laureate, said that he was delighted that the Chancellor appeared to recognise the role of science in driving a dynamic economy.

“What is really important is that the Government and the Treasury are coming publicly to state that science is becoming more central to the Treasury’s thinking,” Sir Paul said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot