Science bodies urge research funding guarantee

Britain's scientific leaders have urged the Government to guarantee funding for research to fuel Britain's recovery.

The presidents of the four UK national academies called for an "innovation revolution", driven by increased investment over the next 10 years, and warned that without a stable funding framework Britain could be overtaken by overseas competitors.

Innovation was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the UK's economic growth before the recession of 2008/09 and research will play "an even more crucial role" in the knowledge-driven economy of the future, said the presidents of the British Academy, Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences and Royal Academy of Engineering in a joint statement.

Sir John Parker, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: "Growing the knowledge base through research is crucial for accelerating innovation, spinning out new companies and driving exportable, global technical leadership.

"Innovation, based on great research, is the key to economic revival and recovery and we are well placed to achieve this. Britain is among the world's top 10 manufacturing nations, renowned for high-value-added industries like aerospace, life sciences and creative design. With the right strategic investment we can improve on this position."

They gave strong backing to the ringfencing of the science budget, and urged the Government to put a stable 10-year investment framework at the centre of its plans for growth and to ensure that research remains at the heart of evidence-based policy making across Whitehall.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society said: "Both the public and private sectors under-invest in research in the UK, compared to the majority of our economic competitors.

“The Government has shown that it knows the value of research to a long-term sustainable economic recovery based on innovation; they just now need to show the courage of their convictions."

The group also emphasized the importance of maintaining a diverse research base across all disciplines to help tackle major national and international challenges.

The president of the British Academy, Professor Sir Adam Roberts, added: "We should never take an exclusively instrumental view of research, but at a time when the UK is looking for economic growth, research on a wide range of subjects is vital.

“And to tackle the big challenges of this century, from ageing populations to climate change, we need to take advantage of expertise along the whole waterfront: the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, medicine and engineering."

Professor Sir John Tooke, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: "Building a knowledge economy in the UK will drive growth and provide clear benefits for individuals and society at large.

“Every £1 increase in public funding for medical research stimulates up to £5 of investment into research by the pharmaceutical industry.

"The UK is responsible for 14 per cent of the top 100 medicines in use today, second only to the USA. We must stay at the cutting edge of research to reap the financial and social rewards of its translation."

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