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UK pumps £200m back into scientific infrastructure

British chancellor George Osborne announced £200 million (US$314 million) for science infrastructure projects in his annual Autumn Statement today.

The new money includes £82 million for the next phase of the Institute of Animal Health’s Pirbright laboratory redevelopment, £62 million to Research Councils UK for capital investment, £25 million for demonstration projects in fields such as smart energy grids and low-carbon vehicles, £20 million for Earth-monitoring satellites (which is intended to attract further private investment) and £13 million for new scientific computing infrastructure.

The investment is part of the government’s updated National Infrastructure Plan, which includes an additional £5 billion for infrastructure projects, funded by further cuts in spending elsewhere, in an attempt to stave off recession.

Along with around £300 million in science spending announced earlier this year, the government has now pledged almost half a billion pounds to science since October 2010, when the spending review was announced. But this does not come close to replacing the cuts in the spending review, which slashed infrastructure spending and froze grant budgets (see ‘UK science faces facilities freeze’).

Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, welcomed the announcement. “Today’s extra cash is the latest in a string of announcements since the Spending Review, which gives me hope that the Chancellor realises we desperately need to stay ahead of the curve on research and development,” he said in a statement. “It’s an area that the UK is uniquely placed to benefit from if we invest wisely, and we now need to see a genuine strategy from our political leaders about how we’re going to put science and engineering at the heart of our economic recovery.”


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