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Osborne announces £600 million for 'science infrastructure'

The chancellor has used his Autumn Statement to announce £600 million in extra investment for science infrastructure to support "technologies of the future".

George Osborne also told MPs in the House of Commons that the next spending review - to cover the 2015-16 year - will be unveiled in early 2013. That will be a key date for the higher education and research sectors, as they battle to protect their funding.

Mr Osborne also said that non-protected departments - a category that includes the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, which oversees higher education and research - would be subject to extra cuts in the current spending review period.

That means BIS will have to find additional savings of 1 per cent in 2013-14 and 2 per cent in 2014-15. However, BIS said following the speech that the science budget "will continue to be protected" for the rest of the current spending review period.

Mr Osborne told MPs there would be "£600 million more for the UK's scientific research infrastructure".

BIS later said the capital investment was "based around providing support to eight technologies of the future, which were discussed by the chancellor in his speech to the Royal Society of 9 November".

In that speech, Mr Osborne identified the eight areas as: "the Big Data revolution and energy efficient computing"; synthetic biology; regenerative medicine; agri-science; energy storage; advanced materials; robotics and autonomous systems; and satellites and commercial applications of space.

In its statement today on the new investment, BIS singled out the National Composites Centre, located on the Bath and Bristol Science Park, saying the spending would double its capacity.

The department also cites big data and energy efficient computing in the statement, along with energy storage.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said: "Science and innovation are fundamental to our economy and this £600 million takes the total capital investment announced since the Comprehensive Spending Review [in 2010] to over £1.5 billion."

He added that the new investment "will drive growth, create the jobs of the future and help us get ahead in the global race".

Rick Rylance, chair of Research Councils UK, said: "This very welcome investment acknowledges the crucial contribution of research to economic growth and the societal wellbeing of the UK. It will also significantly advance the future of our outstanding research base."

Mr Osborne also announced an extra £250 million to be spent on laboratories, classrooms and other facilities in further education colleges.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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