Former Business Secretary Greg Clark has said that the Government’s plans to double the science budget by 2024 are in jeopardy. Mr Clark, who chairs the science select committee, has reportedly been receiving increased concerns from MPs over the possible shortfalls. He told BBC News: “As we prepare to compete as a country in the future, it is unquestionable that one of our strongest assets is our science and technology base.
“The world is becoming scientifically more intensive.
“For us to go backwards would be to opt-out of future prosperity.”
His comments echo the concerns of scientific and business leaders who are concerned about next week’s Autumn Budget.
In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to double the amount the Government spends on scientific research.
Mr Sunak, the Chancellor, reinforced that pledge by committing to increase annual spending on science to £22billionn by 2024.
The UK is also currently ranked second in the world for science and research, with 54 percent of our output considered world-leading.
That’s more than the US, Canada, Germany, Japan and Brazil.
But the UK’s increase in R&D spending as a proportion of GDP between 1999 and 2019 has been 0.1 percent, considerably less than many of its economic competitors.
In June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans for the UK to become a “science superpower” after Brexit and yesterday he welcomed business leader to the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum in the hope of securing more funding.
Mr Johnson is keen to build on the success of the UK’s coronavirus vaccine programme and apply it to other areas.
These include developing technology to reach net zero carbon emissions and curing rare illnesses.
But the shadow science minister, Chi Onwurah, criticised the uncertainty over future public funding for research.
“The Prime Minister declared that he wants to see Britain become a ‘science superpower’ in his Conference speech.
“He talks a good game, but when it comes to the decisive action needed to secure a future for British science, he is found wanting.
“Scientists needs long-term clarity on funding, the government is giving them broken promises.”
An analysis by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) indicates that if the government puts off increasing annual research spending to £22billionn by 2024 by three years it will lose £11billionn of investment from the private sector and so fail to reach its target of 2.4 percent of GDP.
Those close to negotiations with the Treasury have told BBC News they received “strong signals” last week that, while the Government would maintain its target of increasing annual science spending to £22bn, it would not commit to do so by 2024.
It comes after the EU blocked Britain from participating in the £80bn Horizon Europe project.
It is the EU’s signature funding initiative that pools in more than £80billion (€95billion) for research and innovation.
Mariya Gabriel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Innovation and Research, blocked Britain from joining the project until it resolves the deepening row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.