Putting Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 82

Letter from Rt Hon John Denham MP, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

  Thank you for your letter of 30 March on UK science policy.

Government investment through the Science and Research Budget has more than doubled in real terms from £1.3 billion in 1997-98 to £3.6 billion in 2008-09. Government support for the UK's research base is at its highest ever level and will enable the UK to maintain its leading position in research excellence, whilst stronger exploitation of research will help to build a stronger economy.

  Against this background, recent speeches by the Prime Minister, Lord Drayson and I have looked at how the research base can help the future UK economy. Lord Drayson wrote to the Research Councils, Funding Councils and National Academies, seeking their views on how the country can get the greatest benefits from the Government's sustained investment in research.

  In response, the Research Councils, HEFCE and the TSB held a conference on 6 April, where I understand that they discussed a range of proposals with a wide audience. The results were published and have been sent to Lord Drayson (http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/future.htm). In the Budget, £106 million of savings were identified, which will be reinvested within the Science and Research Budget to support key areas of economic potential.

  This has been an extremely valuable exercise, setting out the future direction without threatening fundamental curiosity-driven research. I look forward to seeing Research Council priorities as they are developed further.

  This is not the end of the issue—Lord Drayson and I would like the community to remain alert to further opportunities. Indeed Lord Drayson recently met universities and business from the CBI membership where they discussed research priorities.

  The Government remains committed to funding a broad base of fundamental and applied research. Alongside this, Lord Drayson and would like to see the community maintain the debate about research priorities, so that it becomes part of the culture of a healthy UK research base.

May 2009

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