UK Government proposes long-term strategy for science

03/02/04

The UK Government outlined its plans to introduce a long-term strategy for supporting British science and gave its commitment to make Britain one of the most competitive locations in the world for science, research and development and innovation.

At a breakfast seminar with leading figures in the UK scientific community, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, UK Secretary of State for Education Charles Clarke, and UK Secretary of State for Industry Patricia Hewitt announced plans for a fundamental review of funding needs and policy priorities for science, engineering and innovation, with a ten-year investment plan to be announced as a central priority for this summer's Spending Review.

Gordon Brown said:

"The Britain that succeeds in the new world will be a leader in science, skills and enterprise. So we have to make it a priority as a nation to invest in what is the key to our whole economic future and well-being - our science and skills.

"While it would be easier to take the short term route - and fail to make the necessary investments for the future - we propose to take the longer term view, to choose science above many other spending priorities, and we will therefore propose a ten-year investment plan for science, engineering and innovation alongside the 2004 Spending Review."

"To help inform this plan Patricia Hewitt, Charles Clarke and I will consult widely with the scientific community, with universities and research institutes, with charities, and with business over the next few months."

Patricia Hewitt said:

"The UK has some of the best scientists and universities in the world, and to secure that science base, we've invested over $3.25 billion (1.75 billion) in university infrastructure since 1997. But as our Innovation Report showed last year, we still need to get science out of the labs, into our companies and onto the balance sheet. Our businesses can and should benefit from this fundamental review of our science needs."

Charles Clarke said:

"It is extremely timely to have this debate now. The teaching of science and scientific development are highly charged and topical issues. High quality science teaching, a high quality research base, high level science and engineering skills and a broad understanding of science across society are also important drivers for educational and economic success.

"That is why we have already invested more in the training of science teachers in developing and energizing the science curriculum in schools and massively increasing the investment in research and research facilities in our universities. Our commitment to science will continue with the ten-year framework, which will make sure we remain at the cutting edge of scientific change, innovation and revolution. We simply cannot afford to be playing scientific catch up with our main competitors."

The announcement has been welcomed by the scientific community.

Dr. Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

"I am delighted by this long-term commitment to strengthen the UK science base. The Wellcome Trust is able to fund first class research in UK universities because of the resolve and partnership of government. We will continue to work closely with the Government to support and develop the excellence of UK biomedical research."

Professor Sir Harry Kroto, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

"I welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer's recognition of the crucial importance of science and technology to the knowledge economy of the 21st century, by bringing together the leading SET institutions to discuss the best way ahead - on which the UK's very future and success will depend."

And Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, said:

"The Royal Society welcomes the long-term investment that the UK Government is committing to both basic research and innovation and recognizes the significant efforts that have already been made to improve the infrastructure in our universities. The UK is a world leader in science and can only maintain its international standing with the full support of the Government for our world class science base."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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