Government science spending falls, despite election pledge

By Danny Palmer
08 Nov 2012 View Comments
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Government spending on science and technological innovation has dropped by 7.6 per cent, despite an election pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to protect funding in the field.

The figures come from a House of Commons library study based on the first year of the current parliament. The coalition government said they would protect three areas from its austerity measures – the NHS, international development and science – but the research indicates this isn't the case. 

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The spending cuts on science – which apply only to the first year of the current government – have come via reductions in individual departments, including environment and rural affairs, transport, and defence. The information was requested by Chi Onwurah MP, shadow science and innovation minister. 

"It's worse than we thought," she told The Guardian. "We know the pressure on departments to cut [and] this is something they can do relatively silently. There is more to fear from further cuts coming."

She raised concerns that such cuts would continue at the same pace, although there aren't yet figures available for more recent periods.

Nonetheless, Onwurah argues that if science funding continued to drop at six per cent per year, it will represent a total reduction of more than a quarter by the end of this five-year parliament. She called for the government to provide scientists with a budget to provide new research and technology.

The public release of the figures could come as a blow to the government, which has often praised science and technological innovations. Indeed, last month saw Prime Minister David Cameron praising innovative companies in East London's Tech City.

"The success of Tech City shows just what can happen when we back some of our most innovative and aspiring companies to grow, helping the UK compete and thrive in the global race," he said.

Meanwhile, the government hopes introducing computer programming in schools will lead to a new generation of computer science innovators. Computing spoke to digital skills champion Ian Livingstone about the scheme earlier this year.

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