Chancellor wants nation of boffins

GB hints at scientific spending spree

The Government is to spend more money on making the UK a better place to do science. But how much more?

The FT, which splashed the authorised-looking leak on its front page today, isn't saying. Perhaps Treasury spin doctors want to keep something back until chancellor Gordon Brown meets members of the scientific establishment today.

He is to announce a review of the state of scientific endeavour in the UK, and outline plans to make the sector one of the most "attractive locations for science and innovation", the paper says.

The UK has budgeted £3bn of investment on science and engineering in 2005-6. We may have to wait for the next Budget - on 17 March - to see how much rhetoric translates into hard cash.

The news comes at a time of crisis in scientific education in the UK. Fewer students than ever are opting to study maths at a higher level.

A government inquiry found that to sustain current levels of staff, half of all Maths graduates will have to go into teaching. Professor Smith, author of the report, is one of the scientists who will meet Brown today.

Treasury beancounters acknowledge that Brown's plans wil not come cheap. They are looking a various ways of raising the extra cash, such as tax breaks for companies and new ways to support science in schools.

The government also wants to encourage partnerships between academia and business, to turn pure science into products and commerce. ®

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