'Flat cash' for science in the Spending Review
- 26 June 2013
In today's Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne rightly highlighted the importance of science and innovation to the life of the nation, to quality of life and to economic growth, stating 'investment in science is an investment in our future'. In addition to recognising the importance of spending on infrastructure by increasing the capital budget, the Chancellor highlighted that intellectual capital is essential.
The Chancellor announced that the resource budget for science will be maintained at £4.6billion, with a capital budget increased to £1.1billion in real terms. This settlement recognises the sustained excellence of the science sector; however, it repeats the offer of 2010 and presents us with the same challenges.
Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says: "We welcome the Chancellor's clear recognition that strength in science and innovation is vital for the country, and that the UK excels in these fields. We welcome the much needed increase in the capital spending, but the repeated allocation of the resource budget at 2010 levels for another year adds real risk and difficulty. For science to continue to contribute it is essential that the effective cuts imposed by this frozen resource budget are remedied at the very next opportunity and at the latest by the first budget after the election."
In response to the spending freeze in 2010, Dr Downs said: "A 10% cut over four years is a significant blow to the UK's competitiveness. The Government has failed to recognise what all charities know, an economic downturn is the time to invest in fundraising to ensure future prosperity. It is research and development, coupled with skilled people, that will deliver growth. Our international competitors have recognised that: the coalition Government has yet to fully accept that reality."
Three years on, the UK is feeling the effect of decreased spending as budgets remain fixed in the face of inflation.
Dr Downs says: "The challenge is of dealing with real year on year erosion of the budget through inflation is an increasingly difficult task. We simply cannot afford to lose talented people and research momentum from the science sector."
We now await further details of the capital budget. As the chancellor said "Our philosophy is simple: trust people to make their own decisions and they will usually make better ones." We hope that Government will entrust the science community to make its own decisions on how to use this investment according to the established Haldane Principle.
"The UK receives a sizeable chunk of funding from global R & D budgets, and to sustain this we must send out the message that we're determined to maintain our leading position."