Leonardo in a Garden Shed? U.K. Labs Get Cash Infusion, But Science Spending Still Down

Go for budget. The NovaSAR Earth-observing satellite is one project getting a boost from U.K. spending increase.


The U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, today announced his autumn budget statement which included £200 million for research infrastructure. Researchers welcomed the new money, but pointed out that it makes only a small dent in the cuts science has endured since the government announced a "ring-fence" around research spending last year.

The new expenditure is divided up among five areas:

  • £80 million for the next phase of redeveloping the Institute for Animal Health's Pirbright Laboratory
  • £62 million for Research Council capital investment
  • £25 million for demonstration projects in fields such as smart energy grids and low-carbon vehicles
  • £20 million toward a demonstrator satellite, called NovaSAR, which uses radar to view Earth's surface through clouds. A fraction of the cost of normal radar satellites, NovaSAR could be launched in 2013 with further investment.
  • £13 million for new scientific computing infrastructure

"It's really encouraging for the U.K. economy that last year's cuts are being slowly reversed," Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said in a statement. "Investment in science and engineering is vital if we're to achieve sustainable growth."

The government has increased other funding for science this year, adding a total of £295 million to research budgets. But CaSE points out that there have been effective cuts of £1.7 billion, as a result of last year's spending review, which the government claimed "froze" research spending.

"This additional £200 million for research infrastructure is good news," said Royal Society President Paul Nurse. "Today's announcements must be the start of that additional investment rather than just a one off," he added. "We have world class scientists and they need world class places to do their work—you would not keep a Da Vinci in a garden shed."