The UK government is adding an extra £200 million to the Research Partnership Investment Fund in order to boost science research.
With the government contribution rising to £300 million from the initial £100 million which it provided when the Fund was launched at this time of this year's Budget, the total investment is expected to be at least £1 billion, say ministers.
The new funding has been provided because since its launch the Fund has been "heavily oversubscribed, with an overwhelming number of high-calibre bids," says the Treasury. The new money will more than double the number of projects that will benefit, potentially speeding up further private and charity sector investment in the research base, and encouraging university and business collaboration which will help to promote jobs and growth, it adds.
The Fund supports university capital projects, but requires theuniversities to at least double the public funding through contributionsfrom private companies or charities.
Successful applicants from the current round of bidding for the fund include Oxford University, working with a number of healthcare companies, the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Cancer Research UK to build a £138 million centre for targeted cancer research to develop, test and implement personalised treatments, diagnosis, imaging and therapy.Funding for this project, and others, is subject to final due diligence from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is administering the Fund, and will announce the full set of projects in the coming weeks. It will also issue a further call for new and reworked proposals in the near future.
Announcing the new funding on 8 October, Chancellor George Osborne said: "Today, we deliver with some of our leading businesses and universities £1 billion of new science investment in the areas where we lead the world".
The universities and science minister, David Willetts, added: "The UK has world-class companies and great universities. This new investment will get them working together to deliver innovation and growth."
Good start - but more to be done
The announcement was welcomed by pressure group the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), whose director, Imran Khan, stressed that moving towards a more science-based economy 'is critical' if the UK is to have a sustainable recovery.
However, he added that the new £200 million from the government "still doesn't offset the huge cuts made to our research base in 2010 - we still have a £1 billion deficit."
In October 2010, the coalition government cut £1.7 billion from the research base over the period of the current spending review, even before inflation is taken into account, says CaSE. Since the last review, ministers have announced nearly £600 million of new investment for the research base - £100 million in the 2011 Budget, £195 million at the last Conservative Party conference, £200 million in the 2011 autumn statement and £90 million as part of the Life Sciences Strategy, it adds.But CaSE said: "Even when the new £200 million is added, we're still facing a shortfall of just under £1 billion, and that's before inflation is taken into account."
While the chancellor is doing the right thing in reversing some of those cuts, "we need to go much further or risk getting left behind by our international competitors," Mr Khan warned.