Written by Cher Thornhill
The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, recently visited UCL to deliver a talk entitled, ‘New opportunities for science capital’.
After negotiating my way around protesting students, I gained entry to UCL’s Darwin Lecture Theatre, which dissolved the tense, edgy atmosphere with a gentle, studious calm.
Rt Hon David Willetts MP
When it comes to government science spending, the major recurrent spend includes money for:research councils (RCs), the higher education funding council for England (HEFCE), learned societies and Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF).
Mr Willetts began his talk by hailing the coalition’s commitment to such spending. “We’ve not just maintained a £4.6 billion science ring fence but are now modestly increasing it,” said Willetts, who added that the research council budget allocations had been announced earlier that day.
In the current age of austerity, the government has also made a long-term commitment to increase capital investment in science and research to £1.1 billion in 2015–2016 and to grow it in line with inflation each year to 2020–2021, Willett added.
“Total science and research spending is at the highest level it’s been in recorded science-spend history,” he said proudly. In addition to the recurrent spending, £5.8 billion – almost a quarter of the ring-fenced amount – has been allocated to capital investment in science and research over the next five years.