IChemE CEO responds to government cuts

21st October 2010

IChemE CEO Dr David Brown has cautiously welcomed news that the UK science budget is to be frozen in cash terms but has warned that education cuts pose a grave risk to UK industry.

Reacting to UK Chancellor George Osbourne’s spending review; Brown said that the decision to freeze the science budget will still lead to tough times ahead but that things could have been considerably worse.

Brown has also warned that careful attention must now be placed on how that budget is used: “The UK is now one of the only countries in the industrialised world that is not increasing its investment in science and research. That means we need to think very carefully about how the money is spent and it must be increasingly directed towards applications that UK engineering can translate into commercial gain.”

Brown also said that cuts to the education budget and the recommendations outlined last week in the Browne Report could harm the UK: “Some of our greatest economic assets are the graduates from our universities. If we can’t produce enough talented scientists and engineers each year to meet industry demand, inward investment will suffer and our economic prosperity will be further weakened.”

“Government must look closely at which courses produce the graduates that have had – and will continue to have – a really positive impact on the UK economy and protect those subject areas accordingly,” said Brown.

The UK Energy and Climate Change budget has also been cut by 5% and Brown has urged caution on where the savings might be made: “It’s easy to forget the long-term picture when trying to tackle shorter-term problems but slashing investment in low-carbon technology now will cost more money in the longer term.”

“UK engineering and science are world class in many areas of energy technology - improving efficiency, developing cleaner ways to use fossil fuels, scaling up renewables, getting value from nuclear and - for the long run - we're global leaders in fusion. We need to make sure every pound's used to maximum effect, but it's a false economy to give up where we're ahead. Government must ensure we really sweat our engineering assets so we can give society the energy - cleaner energy - we all need,” says Brown.