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UK: R&D threat “averted”, as gov’t adds £250m

Scientists and researchers in the UK will be given an extra £250m in funding this year, to support “pioneering research” and drive the UK’s ambitions to become a “science superpower”, the country’s government has announced. 

Scientists and researchers in the UK will be given an extra £250m in funding. Photo: Pexels

"The new funding will take total Government investment in R&D to £14.9 billion in 2021/22"

The funding will help to pay for the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, the European Union’s funding program for research and innovation. The announcement comes after Universities UK expressed concerns about how the UK’s participation in the scheme was to be funded. 

“This investment reinforces the Government’s commitment to putting research and development at the heart of plans to build back better from the pandemic”

UUK had argued that if the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was required to fund the costs of participation out of the existing science budget, it would amount to an effective cut of something in excess of £1bn.

Now the government has said that UK scientists will have access to more public funding “than ever before”. The new funding will take total government investment in R&D to £14.9 billion in 2021/22 and follows four years of significant growth in R&D funding, including a boost of more than £1.5bn in 2020/21. 

“This investment reinforces the government’s commitment to putting research and development at the heart of plans to build back better from the pandemic,” BEIS said in a statement

“It will support vital and pioneering research while enabling the UK’s brilliant scientists, researchers and businesses to access and benefit from the world’s largest collaborative research programme, Horizon Europe – worth around €95 billion over the next decade.”

Last month the government announced the new Advanced Research & Invention Agency, backed with £800 million by 2024/25 and tasked with funding “high-risk, high-payoff research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better”.

BEIS said that the government remains committed to reaching its target of 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D across the UK economy by 2027 and increasing the budget for research and development to £22bn.

“We are very pleased that the government has averted threats to UK science and research by allocating additional funding to support the UK’s association to Horizon Europe; and welcome their commitment to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027,” said Julia Buckingham, president of UUK.

“Given current pressures on public finances this is a significant affirmation of the government’s belief in research, recognising the pivotal role it plays in the UK’s current and future prosperity, and ensuring UK universities will remain at the forefront of efforts to address the most pressing global challenges,” she added.

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