The RAS welcomes the government’s continued commitment to fund blue-skies research in UK universities.
The sections of the Report dealing with Science and Technology (edited) follow
In a competitive global economy, innovation and the successful exploitation of creative ideas is increasingly important to business success, productivity and long term economic growth. The Government has an important role to play enabling an innovation system to thrive, so that creative ideas can be carried through to new products and services. The Government has taken action to invest in the science base, strengthen links between business and the research base, incentivise research and development (R&D), and ensure an attractive regulatory and investment environment. In July 2004, the Government set out its ambition to increase public and private investment in R&D, so that it reaches 2.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2014. The Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 sets out the Government’s framework for achieving this target, and its long-term vision for UK science and innovation policy. Building a national innovation system depends on the maintenance of a strong public research base. The UK research base is already highly competitive by international standards. In order to maintain the UK’s world-class universities the Government intends that resource allocation should continue to be strongly focused on excellence in research, including curiosity-driven, user-focused, and collaborative research. The Government is strongly committed to the dual support system for university research, which provides institutions with the freedom to set strategic priorities for research, undertake blue skies work, and respond quickly to emerging priorities.
In recognition of the burden imposed on universities by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) the Government has consulted on options for reform. In line with the presumption made in Budget 2006, the 2008 RAE will go ahead as planned. However, the consultation made clear that there is overwhelming appetite for reform thereafter. This Pre-Budget Report sets out a new framework for research assessment and funding. Further details of the new system are published today.21 Responses to the consultation made clear that a single system should apply to all institutions and across all disciplines, but noted differences in the applicability of current metrics across disciplines. The Government agrees with this analysis and is developing an overarching framework within which the current applicability of metrics in different disciplines is accommodated:
3. Wealth Creation & Knowledge Transfer
In order to optimise the economic impact of research, the new system will provide greater rewards for user-focused research. In advance of the new system coming into effect, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will, from 2007-08, allocate £60 million of Quality-Related research funding a year, relative to the amount of research universities undertake with business. HEFCE will be responsible for refining the details of the new system, including the bibliometric system and the light-touch peer review, in consultation with the university sector. It will report back to the Government in time for the 2007 Pre-Budget Report.
The Government’s goal is for the UK public to be confident about the governance, regulation and use of science and technology – by both government and business – and to be actively engaged in scientific debate. To build on the progress made in this area through the Sciencewise Programme, the Government will establish an Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue on Science and Innovation to assist all parts of government in enabling public debate on science and technology-related topics. The Centre will develop and disseminate good practice on public dialogue across government and its non-departmental public bodies, resulting in a culture where public dialogue is seen as a fundamental part of science and technology policy development.