This afternoon,we waited with bated breath as Chancellor George Osborne stood up to outline exactly how much Government departments would be allowed to spend in 2015-16.
At Cancer Research UK, we’ve been working with our partners across the science community over the past year to make the case for investing in science: as we have said before it’s vital to both the health and economic growth of the nation.
While we don’t receive any direct Government funding for our research, the money the Government spends on UK research is crucial to providing the foundations which allow our world-class researchers to flourish.
It looks like our hard work has paid off; the Chancellor demonstrated that he ‘gets’ science and its value to the UK. As he said in his speech:
“Scientific discovery is first and foremost an expression of the relentless human search to know more about the world but it is also an enormous strength for a modern economy.”
But there were deeds as well as words: Osborne announced that 2015-16 science budget will be frozen in real terms at £4.6 billion.
If you take into account inflation over the next few years, this freeze could be seen as a cut. But with public finances severely stretched, and with other departments seeing hefty real term cuts, we are pleased that science has been protected and, on top of this, will in fact see increases in spending on infrastructure and equipment until 2020.
The Chancellor also reaffirmed the Government’s support for the Charity Research Support Fund - an important funding pot that specifically supports the infrastructure in universities where charities spend their money.
We’re delighted that the Government has maintained and ring-fenced the science budget today, with increases in capital spend. Our ability to fund high-impact science in the UK relies on the unique blend of public, private and charity sector funding and this decision should further cement the UK’s position as a world leader in research.
Supporting science will benefit both the health and economic growth of the nation.
There were also extremely encouraging signs that Government had listened to the community’s messages about the need for long-term investment in scientific infrastructure, and further plans will be announced shortly. Medical research in particular is a long term endeavour with research today contributing to treatments that are available for patients in the future. And when public finances improve, we will want to see increases to the science budget.
As with all Government announcements, the devil will be in the detail – but today’s headlines are certainly welcome news for medical research.