UK science investment slashed by 41 percent

The government has revealed plans to cut investment in new UK science and research projects by 41 percent over the next four years, while keeping annual science spending at £4.6bn
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Government science investment is to fall by 41 percent over the next four years, and yearly spending will not get an increase in funds, the government's science minister has said.

David Willetts image

Science minister David Willetts has announced a 41 percent reduction in funding for new science projects. Photo credit: BIS

Funding for new projects in the sciences will fall from £872m in the year 2010-11 to £517m in 2014-15 — a 41 percent reduction — science minister David Willetts said in a written answer on Monday. Annual expenditure will remain flat at £4.6bn.

"This government [is] committed to efficiency, prioritisation and reform," said Willetts. "We shall delay capital investment to maximise investment in research projects and in people undertaking research. The government intend[s] to announce during 2011 the allocation of funding to a small number of further projects on the 2010 large facilities roadmap."

The only entity to see an increase over the period will be the Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF), which will see a budget boost of 24 percent over the period, from £103m in 2010-11 to £128m in 2014-14. The LFCF supports large-scale UK science facilities, such as high-performance computing projects and ocean research.

The UK Space Agency will see its budget stay flat in cash terms at £19m per year. The agency, which administers all civil space activities, was launched in March to replace the British National Space Centre. In November Willets presented a report that showed the UK space industry had demonstrated a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent per year since 2007.

Expenditure in the science budget, which provides funding for bodies including research councils, is to remain flat at £4.6bn. There will be reallocation within the budget to some international and cross-research council projects from other programmes, research councils and academies.

The reallocation of funds will benefit international physics projects, which have received a boost. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will get a 78 percent rise in its budget. The STFC helps co-ordinate UK involvement in projects such as the Large Hadron Collider at Cern and the proposed European Extremely Large Telescope and Square Kilometre Array.

STFC's budget for cross-council facilities, such as the Diamond Light Source synchrotron, has also been boosted by 34 percent, to £89m in 2014-15.

"Our settlement is extremely welcome and recognises government's strong support for our science and technology, although the next four years is not without challenges," STFC chairman Michael Sterling said in a statement. "STFC and its research communities are well positioned to deal with these."

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