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UK Aims for $161M Investment in Life Sciences Facilities

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The United Kingdom plans to invest £100 million ($161.2 million) in new scientific research facilities capital and infrastructure spending this year under its newly proposed budget, including £80 million to life sciences centers in Cambridge and Norwich.

The 2011 budget proposal includes £100 million to the Research Councils UK (RCUK), which will provide £44 million to the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge and £26 million to the Norwich Research Park for environmental and life sciences, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in his Wednesday unveiling of the budget.

The proposal also includes £10 million each for the International Space Innovation Centre in Harwell and The National Science and Innovation Campus in Daresbury.

The Babraham campus supports the region's life sciences network and early-stage biomedical firms and lures investments, and the new funding will be used to fund the creation of new companies and new jobs in the life sciences, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which supports the Babraham Institute, said in a statement today.

"The extra spending will help drive innovation and growth and reflects our commitment to cutting-edge research" at the Norwich park, the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said today in a BBSRC statement.

"The creation of a supportive, entrepreneurial environment promoting bioscience innovation is one of our key objectives as we continue to develop the Babraham Research Campus," Willets said. "This new investment recognizes the value of our excellent research base and proves the UK science industry is very much open for business."

Derek Jones, chief executive of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, said that the investment shows that the government recognizes the value of the center's research efforts and of the support it provides emerging biomedical companies.

"The creation of a supportive, entrepreneurial environment promoting bioscience innovation is one of our key objectives as we continue to develop the Babraham Research Campus," said Jones, who added that the funding will support expansions of its bioincubation business programs.

Babraham Institute Director Michael Wakelam said that the increased funding will "enable us to build on our current strengths of research and innovation," and to "initiate further developments in infrastructure and facilities to support the life sciences industry in both the region and the UK."

"Future job growth in the UK will come from the small and medium enterprises of the kind that Babraham will host," BioIndustry Association Chief Executive Nigel Gaymond said, noting that the Babraham campus is "a great example of commitment to providing facilities for start-up companies in the life sciences sector."

In his statement announcing the budget proposals, Osborne said that the UK also needs to promote research and development in small businesses as well as in research centers.

He noted that the Research and Development Tax Credit will increase this year and again in 2012.

"We also want to encourage manufacturers to invest in the latest machinery and technology. So I propose to double the limit on the capital allowances for short life assets from four years to eight years," Osborne added.

He also said that an allowance for renovating the premises of businesses in certain areas receiving assistance, which was set to expire this year, would be extended for another five years under this budget plan.