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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 13:31 GMT
UK to invest long-term in science
Scientist in the lab, Eyewire/BBC
The framework has been broadly welcomed by the science community
Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced a long-term plan of investment in science education and hi-tech industry in his pre-budget report.

Mr Brown said that in order to succeed in the global economy, Britain needed to build on its "scientific genius".

Speaking in the Commons, he said tax barriers to the formation of university spin-off companies would be removed.

To help raise the level of business R&D the government will establish an industry-led science forum.

The forum will be chaired by the chief executive of AstraZeneca, Sir Tom McKillop.

Mr Brown promised "a concerted national mission to invest long-term and establish world leadership in science education, skills and enterprise".

The treasury will also continue to re-examine R&D tax credits for mid-sized science-based firms.

Mr Brown also announced the government's intention to pilot a matched scheme to help universities build up its resources through endowments.

Science city

He said he wanted to build on the 2.5bn investment in science and its 10-year science framework.

In addition, the northern regional development agencies will promote special "science cities" in the north of England as part of their 100m science technology investment programme.

The first science city will be Manchester, followed by Newcastle and York.

Dr Peter Cotgreave, director of Save British Science, said he found the announcement "heartening".

But, he added: "We have seen in the last week that, chemistry departments are closing around the country.

"Despite new money, universities are struggling, and the reason is that central interference hampers the benefits of Gordon Brown's financial investment."

The furore over chemistry closures led Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Harry Kroto to return his honorary degree to Exeter University in protest.

The "buckyball" pioneer denounced what he called "slash and burn" plans at the institution in the southwest of England.

Wide interest

Ian Diamond, of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), welcomed Mr Brown's statement.

"Research councils will deploy the majority of the new funds we receive to increase our contributions to the full economic cost of research," he said.

He added that the councils would also use it to boost PhD stipends - or grants - invest in renewing research infrastructure and strengthen knowledge transfer activities.

Paul Danielsen, of the Institute of Physics, commented that to achieve its aims, the government would first have to "invest in the infrastructure of school science teaching and university physical science departments".

He added that it would need to "foster a community in Britain that is welcoming to science".

Dr Simon Best, the chairman of Ardana Ltd, a pharmaceutical company based in Edinburgh, said the commitment to science across the UK was essential.

"Focus on northern cities is welcomed as there is excellent science all across UK - this development will spark accelerated growth outside London," he said.


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