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UK Science Budget to Flatline for 2015-16, R&D Capital Funding Boosted

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK government plans to keep its science spending flat at £4.6 billion ($7 billion) in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, according to a new spending plan unveiled this week. Critics say this funding level will effectively amount to a cut due to the impact of inflation.

The UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said this week when he announced the national budget that although science spending will remain at the same level it is now, the government will provide £1.1 billion to fund capital spending for science and research infrastructure, an increase of £500 million over 2012-2013.

The Research Councils UK said on Thursday that it is currently unclear how the £4.6 billion in total spending will break out across the scientific research areas.

RCUK noted in a statement that the plan keeps science funding stable amid a "landscape of fiscal constraint" and an overall budget that includes "significant cuts to public spending across the board."

"[The plan] will nonetheless present continued challenges to the research community who have already seen very real reductions to research investment over the current spending review period," RCUK said.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering was not enthusiastic about the flat funding, making the argument that the UK is in danger of lagging behind other nations that are spending larger percentages of their budgets on R&D.

"Flat cash is far from flat," CaSE said. The group estimated that science spending will be eroded by inflation by a cumulative £276 million, or around 6 percent, between now and the 2015-16 fiscal year.

On top of the £1.1 billion for research capital funding, the government also plans to provide an additional £185 million for the Technology Strategy Board in 2015-16. This funding will support innovation and expand the number of Catapult Centres, which are focused on spurring technology commercialization efforts, to include stratified medicine and energy systems. This TSB funding also will provide continued funding for the Biomedical Catalyst program