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Budget 2011: Osborne’s bank raid benefits science

A £100 million cash injection for four research campuses has been announced in today’s Budget.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the additional money had been found from the new levy on banks and would go to facilities that had been earmarked as priorities by the science and engineering research councils.

The centres receiving the investment are: the Babraham Research Campus, a biosciences facility in Cambridge; the Norwich Research Park for environmental and life sciences; the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell in Oxfordshire; and the National Science and Innovation Campus in Daresbury, Cheshire.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering welcomed the announcement, but said the money had to be seen in the context of the government’s £1.4 billion cut to capital spending on science.

“The extra funding announced today could be a first step on the path to making science and engineering pivotal to growth. But labs across the country are going to be struggling to make ends meet following the cuts announced last year,” said Imran Khan, CaSE’s director.

Mr Osborne also announced greater tax breaks for small companies engaged in research, plans to fund 12 more vocational university technical colleges for 14- to 19-year-olds, and up to 50,000 extra apprenticeships.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the million+ group of post-1992 universities, said the apprenticeships were welcome, but suggested that the government could have used revenue from the bank levy to increase places at higher education institutions.

“Demand for places is running at record levels and the government says it is serious about tackling youth unemployment. The bank levy could have been invested in student places…to generate the high-value skills and innovation that our economy needs,” she said.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Given the huge overall cut to the science capital budget, £100 million to be shared between four research centres is to be welcomed, but is hardly cause for celebration.”

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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