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Science Budget inquiry launched

17 July 2015

The new Science and Technology Committee has launched its first inquiry today, into the Science Budget. Speaking at the Committee’s first evidence hearing on Wednesday 15 July, BIS Minister, Jo Johnson MP, refused to be drawn on whether the future budget would continue to be ring-fenced.

Chair of the Committee, Nicola Blackwood MP said:

"The UK remains a world leader in science, but we risk falling behind if the Government gets decisions on science funding wrong. The country currently spends 1.7% of GDP on science and research, that’s below the OECD average of 2.4% and well behind the 2.8% and 2.9% spent by the US and Germany.

If the UK is to compete in the modern world it must remain at the forefront of research and innovation. Our future growth and prosperity will be influenced by the decisions that the Government takes on the size and distribution of the Science Budget in the forthcoming Spending Review."

The Science Budget (PDF 990.45 KB) has since 2010 been ring-fenced as a separate budget within the BIS departmental budget. The 'resource' (running cost) element of the Science Budget has been fixed since then at a cash-flat £4.6b a year—around 6% less in 2015-16 in real terms than 2010-11 as a result of inflation. That budget is distributed in two main channels under a 'Dual Support System': to the UK-wide Research Councils (£2.6b) which in turn provide grants for specific projects and programmes, and to the higher education funding council for England (£1.6b) (higher education funding is devolved) which provides block grant funding to universities. The remainder of the Science Budget includes funding for the national academies (£0.09b), including the Royal Society and British Academy, as well as for the UK Space Agency. Other government departments, notably Health and Defence, also fund research and development outside the Science Budget. The capital expenditure element of the Science Budget is smaller, at £0.86b in 2015-16, and has fluctuated year-on-year.

The March 2015 Budget announced an inflation-proofed capital budget of £1.1b a year up to 2020-21. The Spending Review, expected to be concluded in the autumn, will set budgets (including the resource Science Budget) for 2016-17 onwards.

The S&T Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into the Science Budget, ahead of the Spending Review. It took oral evidence on 15 July from Jo Johnson MP, the minister for science, as well as national academies, and will have further sessions in the autumn. The Committee invites written submissions by 26 August, including on the following issues:

  • The extent to which the current ring-fence arrangements, and the separate arrangements for determining 'resource' and 'capital' allocations, have produced coherent UK science and research investment;
  • The extent to which science and research expenditure in Government departments (outside the Science Budget) complements or competes with the Science Budget; 
  • The need for and rationale for any adjustment to the trajectory of future Government expenditure on science and research, and what would be gained from an increase (or lost from a reduction) compared with current expenditure levels;
  • Whether the current distributions of the budget between particular types of expenditure and between different organisations is appropriate for future requirements, and achieves an appropriate balance between pure and applied research;
  • What level of Government expenditure on science and research is needed:
         - to significantly drive the overall level of such expenditure in the economy, through synergies between government and private sector investment (including overseas investment); and
         - to optimally balance its benefits against the opportunity cost of government expenditure foregone on other public services.
  • Whether the Government's expenditures on aspects of science and research are consistent with other government policies, including the Industrial Strategies and the Eight Great Technologies and fiscal incentive policies for research investment;
  • The extent to which any increase or reduction in Government expenditure on science and research will have an impact on the UK's relative position among competitor states.

Submitting written evidence

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements. If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information or do not wish your details to be used for the purpose of collecting feedback, please advise the Committee at [email protected] providing your full name, address, and if relevant your organisation.

Each submission should:

  1. be in Word format with as little use logos as possible 
  2. have numbered paragraphs 
  3. include a declaration of interests.

Please note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised. 
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence. 
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

Further information

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