* George Osborne announced extra 600 mln pounds for science
* Campaigners say money mostly reverses previous cuts
* Welcome from leaders in British science
By Chris Wickham
LONDON, Dec 5 Intense lobbying by Britain's
science community seems to be paying off as finance minister
George Osborne announced an extra 600 million pounds ($966
million) for capital investment in science over the next three
The new money follows a string of recent decisions to spend
more on science, including 50 million pounds for a graphene
research centre in Manchester and a 30 percent increase in
Britain's contribution to the European Space Agency.
Osborne's announcement in an Autumn budget update to
parliament on Wednesday goes some way to reversing previous cuts
and was welcomed by campaigners and leaders of British science.
"The announcement today of an additional 600 million pounds
of capital investment will hopefully help ensure that our world
leading scientists have world leading facilities with which to
work," said Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society,
Britain's national science academy.
Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust medical research
charity, said Osborne was "right to recognise that investment in
world-class science and the world-class infrastructure it
requires must be integral to any strategy for driving growth,
even in times of austerity."
The latest investment is in stark contrast to the cuts in
other areas of government spending aimed at paying down the
debts from the financial crisis.
The new funds will be used to back what the government sees
as areas of scientific research that offer the best economic
Priority areas like advanced materials research, energy
efficient computing and energy storage were outlined by Osborne
in a speech at the Royal Society last month.
After that speech, Paul Nurse told Osborne: "Please remember
to put your money where your mouth is."
Nurse welcomed Wednesday's announcement, saying innovation
is key to economic growth and science is the raw material for
"The Chancellor clearly understands this and his ongoing
commitment to investing in science, despite the difficult
financial circumstances, is very welcome."
In the wake of Osborne's November speech some critics warned
of the danger of government trying to pick scientific "winners"
and argued that focusing on particular areas could backfire.
Nurse echoed those fears on Wednesday, warning: "We must
also make sure that we maintain capital and other support across
a broad range of science."
Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and
Engineering and a strong critic of the government's previous
cuts to the science capital budget, welcomed the new money and
told Reuters it means previous cuts have "mostly" been reversed.
"In the coming decades we won't be able to compete
internationally on natural resources or cheap labour, so the
government's plan to build British excellence in areas like
synthetic biology and energy-efficient computing instead is
absolutely critical," said Khan.