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UK R&D investment: value for money, but too little money? 06.06.14

Former BIS head of research funding calls for increased investment

Graeme Reid is the former head of research funding at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a position he left earlier this year to take up a professorship at UCL. In his inaugural lecture, entitled ‘Why Should the Taxpayer Fund Science and Research?’, he pointed to a highly skilled and scientifically informed labour force as “probably the largest benefit of all”.

He went on to remark that although public investment in science and research amounted to “£3 a week for each person in the UK”, this is “basically an unremarkable level of expenditure” when compared to rival nations and “strikingly below some of the countries we like to emulate”.

He concluded his talk by asking whether it was “time to reappraise the level of scientific funding in the UK”, perhaps boosting it by one-third or even half to match our American and German competitors.

When asked by a member of the audience about the potential impact of any significant future cuts in science funding, Professor Reid responded that “we would need to think if we could continue to be excellent in everything – because we can’t afford to be average in everything”.

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