Government allocates £950m funding for UK science training

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A total of £950m has been announced to fund technologies identified as being drivers for growth and training for the engineers and scientists that will help deliver them.

Speaking today at Policy Exchange, the minister for universities and science, David Willetts, announced the allocation of £350m toward the training of future science leaders and outlined how £600m of science funding declared in last year’s Autumn Statement will be spent.

Willetts said the £600m will be targeted at ‘eight great technologies’ that will help drive future economic growth. These areas are big data, space, robotics and autonomous systems, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agri-science, advanced materials and energy.

The investment builds on the £108m of Autumn Statement funding for synthetic biology, regenerative medicine and the National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre and £28m to the National Composites Centre in Bristol.

To accompany the speech, Policy Exchange has published a pamphlet, Eight Great Technologies, authored by Willetts.

Willetts also announced one of the UK’s largest investments in training for the engineering and physical sciences in the form of the forthcoming £350m call that will be issued by EPSRC in February.

He said: ‘This investment will ensure we have the knowledge and expertise to tackle the major challenges we face in the 21st century, from improving healthcare to developing greener energy.’

Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) are one of the three main ways by which the EPSRC provides support for doctoral training. The other routes are the Doctoral Training Grant and Industrial Case Studentships. The call for new centres will be available from 6 February on the EPSRC website.

EPSRC chief executive Prof David Delpy said: ‘Future economic growth will depend on our ability to develop the right people with the right skills in key sectors.

‘The CDT model has already proved highly effective in training cohorts of world-class students and drawing in expertise from industry and business.

‘This new call will focus on more than 60 priority areas identified after engagement with the scientific community.’

Beck Smith, assistant director at Campaign for Science & Engineering (CaSE), said: ‘CaSE has welcomed all the recent additional spends on science — they go a long way to compensating for the £1.7bn shortfall the sector faced following the 2010 Spending Review.

‘What the sector needs now is a long-term strategic vision for science that spans all government departments, so that policies in areas such as immigration and education work together to ensure the UK really can be the best place in the world to do science.’

Newly announced investments in ‘eight great technologies’

  • £189m for big data and energy-efficient computing to build on the research base’s capacity for analysing big data sets, in areas such as Earth observation and medical science;
  • £25m of additional funding for the National Space Technology Programme for the development of commercial products and services using space technology and data from space-based systems;
  • £35m for centres of excellence in robotics and autonomous systems;
  • £45m for new facilities and equipment for advanced materials research in areas of UK strength such as advanced composites, high-performance alloys, low-energy electronics and telecommunications;
  • £30m to create dedicated research and development (R&D) facilities to develop and test new grid-scale storage technologies;
  • £50m for vital upgrades to research equipment and laboratories;
  • £25m to develop the Advanced Metrology Laboratory at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington; and
  • £65m for world-leading research institutes, focused around the development of Rothamsted Research Campus, Aberystwyth, Harwell Oxford and SciTech Daresbury.