The UK Government has solidified its ambitions to become a science superpower by pledging an additional £250 million (€292m) to support research and development.
The money, which will come through BEIS, will be used to support pioneering research, providing UK scientists and researchers more recourse to public funds. It will also fund UK research previously sponsored by Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research programme.
WHY IT MATTERS
The investment supports the Government’s commitment to foster R&D innovation in the UK. In the most recent budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the government’s ambition to raise R&D investment to 2.4% of UK GDP by 2027. 2.4% is the current OECD average.
This cash injection brings the total UK R&D investment for 2021/22 to £14.9 billion (€17.4b). This surpasses the goal set in the November 2020 Spending Review.
The £250m is in addition to £400m set aside for UKRI and National Academies for 2021/22.
It is still unclear, however, how the UK will pay for its associate membership to Horizon Europe. Some commentators fear it could come out of UKRI’s budget, which would severely impact the UK’s research community and diminish available funds in real terms.
When Britain left the EU, it lost its membership to the research programme. The projected fee to remain in the 7 year programme as part of the UK–EU TCA is £14 billion.
The £250m will be used to support projects that were already part of Horizon.
THE LARGER PICTURE
In its bid to become a science superpower, the UK government recently announced ARIA, which will focus on high-risk, high-reward science and technology and fast-track radical innovation through bureaucratic processes.
The UK also recently released a report on the future of clinical research delivery, which called for clinical research to be embedded in the NHS whilst promoting digital tools to make research more streamlined, accessible and patient-focused.
ON THE RECORD
UKRI CEO Ottoline Leyser commented: “This additional funding for research and innovation is most welcome and reaffirms the government’s commitment to an R&D-led recovery. UKRI will be working hard with government and the whole research and innovation community to make the most of the significant public investment entrusted to us to build an inclusive and sustainable knowledge economy, now and for the future.”
Dr Joe Marshall, CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Business, was less enthusiastic, however: “The announcement of a £250m uplift in research funding sounds positive on the surface, however it masks a worrying reality. The new cost of more than £1bn each year for association to the EU’s Horizon research programme will now be taken from the research budget. This results in a real term cut in research funding. If the government is serious about being a science superpower, it needs to invest more, not less in research.”