Brown promises £1bn for UK science

Pumped and primed

Gordon Brown is to invest a billion pounds of British taxpayers' money in science and innovation in the UK over the next ten years.

In his annual spending review, the chancellor of the exchequer put a figure on the cash for science that he promised in the Budget in March this year. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said then: "We still need to get science out of the labs, into our companies and on to the balance sheet." Today, she said that the £1bn promised to science would boost an already excellent science base.

The framework for the investment outlines the plans for the government to increase spending on science to 2.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next decade. It has been developed in collaboration with industry and academia: the Wellcome trust, for instance, has committed to investing £1.5bn over the next five years.

However, professional science bodies, such as the Institute of Physics, warn that a shortage of graduates could hinder the government's plans.

Dr Julia King, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, said that education was key: "The first step is to invest in the infrastructure of school science teaching and university physics departments, and to foster a community in Britain that is welcoming to science."

Charles Clarke, secretary of state for education, said he is determined that the UK education system will deliver the right skills for the economy.

"This framework sets out a comprehensive strategy for tackling skills shortages in the science, engineering and technology fields," he said in a statement today. He added that he planned to look at education from school level to postgraduate to create "a responsive supply of skills in the future".

It promises higher salaries for Advanced Skills Teachers in science; at least one science-specialist Higher-Level Teaching Assistant in every secondary school in England; and a bigger golden hello for new science teachers and trainees. ®

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