Government policy damaging UK’s research position in Europe

Figures released by the European Union show that the UK is the only country to have cut public investment in science and research ahead of meeting the Lisbon targets. This is before the full impact of the three year 15% real terms cut to the science budget is factored in.

The figures show that all member states reacted to the financial crisis by maintaining or increasing their investment in science, apart from Sweden who have already met the Lisbon target, and UK who is barely half way there.

A survey published alongside the figures show that none of the EU’s high or medium-intensity R&D nations cut their R&D expenditure last year except for the Netherlands and no member state currently has plans to cut their research budgets in 2012.

The UK chose not to respond to the survey but analysis but the House of Commons Library in November 2011 found that the Government was cutting UK investment by 15% over three years, despite having promised to protect it.

The Lisbon target was a commitment made by member states to spend 3% or more of GDP on research by 2020. The Government has backed away from any commitment to meeting the Lisbon 2020 target, having previously agreed to it. The Government also scrapped Labour’s long term investment framework, heightening uncertainty for businesses and researchers.

Commenting on the findings, Chi Onwurah MP, shadow Minister for Innovation and Science said:

“These figures show that this Government’s complacency is putting our world beating position in science and research at risk. David Willetts has signalled the intent of this government by cutting investment when other Government’s committed to science and building knowledge intensive economies are increasing their investment. The Government claims this is the best settlement possible given the economic environment but other member states with similar deficit reduction programmes understand the importance of science and research to economic growth.

“It’s a damning indictment of this Government’s economic and business policy that the only thing stopping the UK from falling further down the table into the medium-low intensity R&D bracket is a stagnating economy.”

Last year the Royal Society’s report Knowledge, Network and Nations showed the UK falling behind other countries’ investment in science.

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