Funding for the UK biotechnology industry will rise to more than £1 billion pounds over the next three years, the Government has revealed. Funding will be ploughed into stem cell research and DNA-based medicines in a bid to make the country “the best place in the world for science” and close the gap with the USA.

“Science and innovation are central to improving the environment in which we all live, the nation’s health and ensuring the success of the UK economy,” said Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, adding: “This sends a strong signal to scientists around the world that the UK is the place to come to carry out research in cutting-edge areas including medical treatments such as stem cell research.”

The allocations come out of the £10 billion UK science spending announced in a 2004 spending review and will see Government spending on UK science will rise to over £3.4 billion a year by 2008. Funding over the next three years includes more than £1 billion for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, an increase to £1.5 billion for the Medical Research Council – including more than £440 million for clinical research into diseases such as mental health, stroke, cancers and diabetes – and a £300 million boost to help universities and institutes link-up with business and spin-off companies.

Although Save British Science, which campaigns to improve science in the UK. Welcomed the announcement, it warned that new safeguards must be put in place “to preserve the fundamental research base on which the UK’s technological supremacy has traditionally been built.” In a statement, SBS director, Peter Cotgreave, said: “We need new mechanisms to make sure that when budgets are tighter, or when political necessity is acute, we do not see prime ministers and their colleagues diverting all the money into what they think are short-term vote-winning areas, and neglecting the seed corn of fundamental research on which Britain has built its truly outstanding scientific record.”