Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Fourth Report

1  Introduction


1. The Government funds much of the science that takes place in the UK. In addition to expenditure by individual departments, central funding for research is channelled through the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) in the form of the Science Budget. This budget has increased since 2004 in line with the commitment in the Science & Innovation Investment Framework that the Science Budget should increase by an annual average of 2.5% in real terms.[1] In 2010/11 the annual budget will amount to nearly £4 billion.[2] Over 85% of the budget goes to the Research Councils, which direct and fund research across the UK university sector and in research institutes. The remaining money is directed to the National Academies, capital funding and various programmes including knowledge transfer initiatives and science and society projects.

2. The most recent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which was published in October 2007,[3] set the Science Budget for the period from 2008/09 to 2010/11 at £11.24 billion. In December 2007, DIUS announced its decisions on how this total would be divided between the various bodies and programmes.

The inquiry

3. The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee is charged with scrutinising the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Approximately half of DIUS's expenditure is through the Science Budget. We therefore decided to conduct an inquiry into the Science Budget Allocations.

4. Our initial intention was for a short inquiry into the allocations as a whole. However, upon announcement of the inquiry, we received a substantial volume of correspondence from within the particle physics and astronomy community, which raised concern about the funding and delivery plan of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Therefore, we decided to explore the allocation to STFC more closely than we had originally planned.

5. The inquiry consisted of three oral evidence sessions. In the course of these sessions we heard from representatives of the physics and astronomy community, Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of Research Councils UK, Dr Ian Pearson MP, Minister for Science and Innovation, and Professor Sir Keith O'Nions, Director General of Science and Innovation. We also took evidence twice from the Chief Executive of STFC, Professor Keith Mason, and once from the Chairman, Peter Warry.

6. In view of the concerns over the STFC Delivery Plan, we also decided to visit the sites most affected: the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh, and the Daresbury Laboratory, Warrington. We are grateful to STFC for organising these visits at short notice and for their prompt cooperation with our requests for further written evidence and additional material following the evidence sessions.

7. In this report, we look first at the overall Science Budget. We then look at the allocations to three Research Councils: the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Medical Research Council.

1   Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014, HM Treasury, July 2004, 

2   The Allocations of the Science Budget 2008/09 to 2010/11, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, December 2007, p 29, Back

3   2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review, HM Treasury, October 2007,


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Prepared 30 April 2008