The MASCOT telemanipulator system used inside the Joint European Torus, a fusion experiment near Culham, U.K. The United Kingdom plans to fund more research on robots in space, offshore energy, nuclear power plants, and mining.

United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

Tech and talent win big in U.K. science budget

CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—A major boost to government R&D spending in the United Kingdom will focus on technology and supporting scientific talent. In today’s announcement of the U.K. 2017–18 budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond revealed details of the new £4.7 billion over 4 years that the government pledged last November. The money is part of an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for research partnerships with business, designed to develop the U.K. economy.

The new funding round consists of £270 million largely for research and development on electric vehicle batteries; drug manufacturing technology; and artificial intelligence and robots for work in space, offshore energy, nuclear power plants, and mining. The areas were selected after a consultation with universities and industrial firms. Some of this pot has not yet been allocated, says Sarah Main, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, an advocacy group in London, and should be used in general support of university research. “Let’s make sure that gets delivered,” she says.

Another £250 million will be spent on fellowships for students and scientists over the next 4 years. Just over a third of this money will support 1000 Ph.D.s, a sizable increase, with 85% in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects that are consistent with the industrial strategy. The remainder will go to early- and midcareer researchers. The government will also provide an extra £50 million over the next 4 years to bring scientists to the United Kingdom from overseas. No figures were immediately available to provide percentage increases in these areas.