In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, a cross-party parliamentary committee has warned that cutting investment in science and innovation might result in the UK losing its competitive edge.
In the letter, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee appealed to Mr Osborne to use this month’s spending review to increase the government’s science budget and recommended setting out a long-term investment framework for science, innovation and skills. Not doing so might adversely affect the economy and cause the UK to fall behind international competition, warned the committee.
"Historically, the UK has been able to attract the best talent from around the world, but there is a serious risk that it will lose out to other countries that are investing more than we are,” wrote Lord Krebs, the committee chair and an eminent Oxford University zoologist.
Science was protected from cuts in the 2010 spending review, but the committee warned that the 'ring-fence' did not provide protection against the impact of inflation and was not enough to ensure that the UK retains its strong global position in science over the long term.
In a recent inquiry, experts warned the committee that UK public investment in research and development, at 0.65 per cent of GDP, was already below the 0.8 per cent average in the G8 group of rich nations.
"A reduction in funding in real terms would result in damage to the UK's science base far in excess of the immediate monetary value owing to impacts of reputational damage," warned Lord Krebs.
The committee urged the government to issue a long-term investment strategy covering at least the next decade, which would give businesses confidence to invest and provide them with clear signals that government initiatives and funding are stable and long-term.