The new budget plans have been set out in response to the global outbreak of COVID-19.
The British government has announced a 15% increase in public funding for research and development for the next fiscal year making it the largest increase to R&D funding ever.
This budget increase came in response to the COVID-19 epidemic which has made life increasingly more difficult for many businesses across the country.
The government will provide £30 million of new funding to the National Institute for Health Research to enable more rapid research into the virus. This funding and research will be vital to understanding how to deal with the virus in the best way whilst also being able to support clinical trials and potential therapeutics.
Sarah Main, the executive director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, made a statement about the announcement saying; “In a welcome move, the Government has supercharged public investment in science, delivering investment faster and further than it had promised.
This is an ambitious program and a huge investment in a short period of time. It must be spent well to ensure that an R&D decade delivers real benefit for everyone in the UK. A multi-year plan is essential at the spending review to ensure that the added value of overseas investment to the economy and personal prosperity to people around the UK are achieved.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it clear that he wants to increase the R&D funding even more over the next three years, doubling the current total by 2024-25.
Back in 2017, the government pledged that within 10 years the country would increase spending on R&D -public and private sectors- to reach 2.4% of gross domestic product, the average of most economically developed countries.
Last year the Conservative Party said they would double R&D funding but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said the government would be more aggressive on its funding increase so that the UK’s would stand with the likes of China, Japan and the United States.
James Wilsdon, a science policy expert from the University of Sheffield believes that this is the right thing to do but that the government must spread the money wisely. “Right now, there are so many things that can be done to combat the virus. Things like social distancing work great for stopping the virus spreading but sadly does nothing to kill off the virus.
It’s definitely a positive step, but success is not going to come about just from sweetener deals. The money needs to be used wisely and be put towards the development of new machinery for hospitals, resources for the people working near or with the virus and the pharmaceutical companies working hard to find a way to combat the virus.”
Some of the other areas the government are planning to use the funding for is in nuclear fission, electric cars and even space technology. The government has listed out a clear plan for what the money will be spent on and that can be found here.
There are concerns about the allocation of the funding though as one of the biggest investments in the plan sets out to make a £1.4 billion pound upgrade to a government animal health facility in Weybridge.
In a statement, Colin Blakemore from the City University of Hong Kong said he is “concerned about the allocation of all this money, and what it means for future decisions about the funding of science.”
Despite some concerns, people are trying to stay hopeful and keep their trust in the government. Now more than ever does the government need to be smart about where they choose to increase funding. For now, research and development is a smart thing to invest into and hopefully it will be rewarded soon.