The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, yesterday unveiled plans to strengthen the country’s research and development capabilities. In his pre-Budget report to Parliament he will re-examine the R&D tax credit for mid-sized science based firms as part of a ten-year £2.5 billion plan to “make Britain the best place for R&D.”

The news comes as Mr Brown, alongside Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, on Friday announced a new National Institute for Health Research that will sit over 10 centres of excellence – similar to the USA’s National Institutes for Health. It is hoped the move will attract an additional £1 billion from the biomedical industry to develop innovative new drugs.

In addition, the Government is to sink £100 million into stem cell research over the next two years, marking an extra investment of £50 million to accelerate the development of therapies for incurable devastating illnesses. It also plans to remove tax barriers to the formation of university spin-off companies, to pilot a scheme that will help build university resources, and will forge a pharmaceutical industry-led science forum that will be chaired by AstraZeneca’s outgoing chief executive, Tom McKillop, to benchmark progress in boosting R&D.