CAMBRIDGE, UK, April 5 – The director of the Wellcome Trust has threatened to halt funding for the building of new research centers and said he would call on Britain’s next government to increase state funding for science.
“The medical research charities were not established to invest in equipment or bricks and mortar, but that is exactly what the lack of state funding has led us to do in recent years,” said Mark Dexter, head of the Wellcome Trust, which funded one-third of the Human Genome Project.
Charitable givers “will, rightly, not tolerate their gift being spent on things that are clearly the responsibility of the state. Charities should not become a substitute for adequate state investment,” he said.
The trust invested £300 million ($429.8 million) last year in infrastructure and has committed another £225 million this year to make up for what it sees as decades of neglect. Twenty-three percent of all British research and development funding now comes from charities, compared with just nine percent in the United States.
But Dexter, who spoke at the Save British Science Society Wednesday night in London, told the society that the trust would not make any new commitments to fund buildings for scientific research.
Dexter’s decision to cut funding for infrastructure projects could have an impact on a proposal made by the trust last year to expand its genome research facilities in the UK. Plans to increase the size of the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus have been held up due to the government’s initial refusal to grant permission to enlarge the facilities, on the outskirts of Cambridge.
“With some prodding and hundreds of millions of pounds from the medical research charities, the present government has done more to rebuild the UK science base than any other in recent years,” Dexter said. “My message is that there is much more to do and the next government will need to ensure that sustaining the competitiveness of British science is a national priority.”