LONDON--British scientists received welcome news today with the release of the government's budget plans: $1.75 billion of new funds over the next 3 years that "will transform the science and engineering base," says trade and industry secretary Margaret Beckett. Much of the money will go to building new facilities and sponsoring research in hot fields, officials say.
When the Labour government was elected in May last year, it promised to tackle the plight of the country's failing research infrastructure. In July that need was highlighted by an independent report commissioned by the previous government and chaired by longtime education reformer Sir Ronald Dearing (ScienceNOW, 24 July 1997 ), which urged the government to spruce up aging facilities.
Today the government took a major step toward acting on those recommendations, unveiling a plan to boost its annual $2.2 billion science budget by 15% over 3 years, to $2.7 billion by 2002. The 3-year plan includes $960 million to build new labs and refurbish outdated ones; half the sum will be provided by the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest life sciences charity. "Major investment in these areas is long overdue and is urgently needed," says Ken Edwards, vice chancellor of the University of Leicester. "We look forward to more detailed announcements," he adds.
A further $630 million will be allocated to the research councils for new projects in priority areas such as the life sciences. And the Wellcome Trust has also pledged an additional $160 million to help the government build a high-intensity synchrotron radiation source to study molecular structures. "We are very pleased indeed with today's announcement and delighted at the Wellcome Trust's involvement," says Peter Cotgreave, spokesperson for the lobby group Save British Science.