George Osborne leans on industry for £1bn science boost

Posted on 8 Oct 2012

Science projects are set to receive a £1bn boost as the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced an extra £200m to tempt further investment from universities and industry.

The Government will add £200m of new money to the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, supporting long-term university capital projects as more specialist hubs are created around the UK.

The Chancellor revealed a £60m partnership between the University of Birmingham and Rolls-Royce for a world-leading research centre for high temperature metallurgy and associated processes for components including turbine blades.

This will ensure a more effective translation of fundamental research to production and train engineers from apprenticeships to postdoctoral fellows.

The fund, which launched with a government investment of £100m during Budget 2012, was heavily oversubscribed and received an overwhelming number of high quality bids.

This additional support will more than double the number of projects that receive funding.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “The UK has world-class companies and great universities. This new investment will get them working together to deliver innovation and growth.”

To access the money, universities must match the funding by at least double from private companies or charities – taking the total investment, including universities’ own contributions, to at least £1bn.

Companies have accepted more responsibility for extracting knowledge held in universities and have been ploughing money into centres where they can carry out R&D.

For example, the balance as to who should fund research has continued to shift from universities and government to business, demonstrated by a £4.3m carrot at Loughborough University that led to defence manufacturer BAE Systems pumping £60m into.

Likewise, a £8m investment at Dundee University attracted £23m from AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK, Merck and Pfizer to translate life sciences research into global healthcare solutions to help fight cancer, infectious diseases, eczema and diabetes.

The centre will help reduce the costs of bringing safe new drugs to market. As well as supporting the best proposals already submitted by universities, the fund will now reopen for further bids.

Steve Radley, Director of Policy at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said: “This is a clear example of the Chancellor’s ambition to switch resources to productive, growth enhancing spending, and we now need to see this trend continue in the forthcoming Autumn Statement.

“The Government needs to demonstrate to business that it has the same clarity and laser-like focus on growth across departments that it has on reducing the deficit.”

Successful projects from the first round of bidding for the fund include:

University: University of Oxford

Investors: UCB Pharma, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Boehringer Ingelheim and Takeda

Project value:  £32m

Purpose: To create a new centre for drug target discovery and for research based on medical data sets. Bringing together academia, industry and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, with capability to analyse massive medical datasets, it will help deliver improved medicines and, better health care.

University: University of Warwick

Investors: Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre

Project value:  £92m

Purpose: To create a new national automotive innovation campus developing new green technologies that will also address a shortage of skilled R&D staff in the automotive supply chain. 

University: University of Oxford

Investors: Synergy Health, Cancer Research UK, Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

Project value:  £138m

Purpose: To establish a new centre for targeted cancer research, taking an all-encompassing approach to patients with early stage cancer, to develop, test and implement personalised minimally invasive treatments, combined with targeted diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

University: University of Liverpool

Investors: Unilever

Project value:  £33m

Purpose: To develop a materials chemistry research hub to reduce new product discovery times relevant to range of sectors including sustainable energy, home and personal care, pharmaceuticals and paint and coatings.