Science hit by capital funding cut

SEVERE cuts in capital funding for the seven bodies which distribute taxpayers' money to scientists will create "particularly significant challenges", their representative council said yesterday.

At the same time, the research councils were relieved at not having suffered more.

Science emerged from October's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) with its 4.6 billion budget ring-fenced for the next four years.

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Taking inflation into account, this amounts to a cut of about 10 per cent by 2014-15 which, it was hoped, could be offset by "efficiency savings".

However, the CSR settlement did not cover capital spending on buildings, equipment and maintenance, and yesterday , as the government announced individual budget allocations for the research councils, it was revealed that science infrastructure funding will be slashed by around 40 per cent.

Professor Alan Thorpe, chair of Research Councils UK, which represents the funding bodies, said: "The cut to the capital budgets of the research councils will present particularly significant challenges going forward but we have a good foundation, and excellence with impact will remain at the core of what we do"

Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the budget announcements confirmed that British science and engineering faced four "very tricky years".

Although capital spending on research was being hit less hard than expected, the cuts still amounted to a "dramatic reduction" in investment in equipment and facilities.