CLOSER Policy alert: Major investment boost for science and research

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MoneyBudget 2020

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has set out a plan to invest in Research and Development (R&D) and cutting-edge technologies over the next Parliament in the first Budget of the new government.

Announcements and investment pledges on science, data and research include:

  • Increasing public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25: this represents the largest and fastest ever expansion of support for basic research and innovation, taking direct support for R&D to 0.8% of GDP and placing the UK among the top quarter of OECD nations – ahead of the USA, Japan, France and China.
  • Immediate funding boost of up to £400 million in 202021 for research, infrastructure and equipment in research institutes and universities across the UK, particularly in basic research and physical sciences.
  • £300 million for experimental mathematical research over the next five years. This will double funding for new PhDs and increase the number of maths fellowships and research projects.
  • Investment of at least £800 million in a new blue-skies funding agency in the UK, modelled on the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the US, to fund “high-risk, high-reward research”. Note that questions remain on exactly how this new agency will operate in relation to the current set-up of government research funding – the forthcoming CSR in July will include more details of how this will work. For insights into how a UK ARPA could work, check out CLOSER’s Policy Alert ‘Visions of ARPA’.
  • An extra £12 million of investment for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in 2020-21 to target research into preventable diseases and work towards solving a range of major health challenges.
  • £2 million in 2020-21 to expand the crosscutting strategic science and resilience capabilities provided by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Government Office for Science.
  • £180 million over 6 years for a new state-of-the-art storage and research facility for the Natural History Museum at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.
  • Improving the use of data and data sharing by investing £16.4 million over the next three years, including £6.8 million for the ONS to make it easier to share more, higher-quality data across government, as part of the government’s National Data Strategy.

In his speech, the Chancellor also announced the official start of this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) process. This is due to be concluded in July 2020 and will set out details of budget allocations for different government departments during each financial year and how the money will be spent. At the CSR, the government will also examine how R&D funding as a whole can best be distributed across the country to help “level up” every region and provide more detail on the UK’s ARPA.

Access the Budget 2020.

You can read the Chancellor’s speech on the gov.uk website.


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