In a move widely condemned by scientists, the Treasury has taken back £1.6bn earmarked for UK science despite the Government insisting R&D budgets would be protected.
According to an analysis of the Central Government Supply Estimates 2022-23 by the Campaign for Science and Engineering the UK’s former Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has returned £1.6 billion of funds to the Treasury, which had previously been allocated for Horizon Europe association or domestic alternatives.
When Chancellor, Rishi Sunak pledged that the funds – protected during the ongoing Horizon Europe dispute – would be spent on research whether or not association was completed. The decision was not publicised by the Government and was only briefly mentioned in a short section of the Central Government Supply Estimates 2022-23 document.
Disgruntled scientists included Professor Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering, who said: “The Government must follow through its ambition for science and innovation with coordinated action and investment across Government, not reversals and false starts. Can the Prime Minister now set out how he plans to mitigate this loss and put science and engineering at the heart of the UK’s future?”
While Professor Liam Smeeth, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, stated: “The UK has a well-deserved reputation as a world leading powerhouse in health research, recently evidenced by the role we played in the Covid response globally. The benefits are huge: in health improvement, economic investment and global prestige.”
“The UK’s position as a global scientific leader is severely threatened. Once our position is lost, rebuilding the excellence of our science and education base in the face of fierce international competition may be an impossible task.”