Government has unveiled plans for science and research funding up to 2015. Advancing the space industry appears among the top priorities as does tackling resource challenges for global food security.
Government has allocated financial support for key research areas over the next four years. The allocations recognise the important part that research and development plays in promoting and securing economic growth. Commenting on the allocations, 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.
“Despite the considerable pressure on public spending we have delivered stable funding. A ring-fence around science and research programmes – including for the first time Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) research funding – will provide stability and certainty.
“We have taken the decision to delay some capital investment to maximise investment in research projects and people actually doing research. This enables us to continue to support researchers pushing the boundaries of knowledge across all disciplines, while also ensuring Research Councils, HEFCE, the UK Space Agency and National Academies are able to plan effectively their future investment in facilities and key projects.”
Some specific allocations laid out in government plans include funding for: the new UK Space Agency – to put it on a firm footing to develop space infrastructure, products and services; the Medical Research Council – to pilot new approaches to treatment of traumatic injuries in military and civilian settings; the British Academy – to support rigorous, quantitative methods in the humanities and social sciences; a new cross-council programme on global food security.
These projects could have a major impact on a broad range on UK manufacturing sectors including: the space industry, aerospace and defence, advanced engineering, pharmaceuticals and food and drink. A small amount of additional funding and its allocations will be detailed in 2011.
Willets explained the logic behind the allocations: “These allocations provide funding for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences as well as STEM to pursue vital research. The allocation will allow Research Councils, HEFCE and the National Academies to maintain the flow of talented new researchers and maintain national capability. It will enable them to provide researchers with access to key large scale research infrastructure, both here and abroad. Funding bodies will concentrate on research centres of proven excellence, with the critical mass to address national challenges and compete internationally and the expertise to collaboration with business.”
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) predicts a positive outlook for strategic research programmes over the spending revue period. Despite widespread austerity measures for economic rebalance the importance of research in key strategic areas for the support of industrial dynamism means a the BIS is forecasting an increase in revenue funding for higher education from around £9bn in 2011-2012 to around £10bn in 2014-2015.