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Campaign for increased spending hots up

Science groups are redoubling their efforts to campaign for an increase in public spending on R&D, alarmed at the overall uncertainty around science funding in the next parliament.

Science is Vital says that UK public spending on R&D dropped to 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2012—the lowest proportion in the G8 group of the world’s biggest economies. It wants politicians to raise that figure to 0.8 per cent, the G8 average. The Campaign for Science and Engineering is calling for a similar spending target, as part of a package of 10 policy ambitions.

The campaign has won support from Jonathan Haskel, a professor of economics at Imperial College London. Haskel is one author of The Contribution of Public and Private R&D to UK Productivity Growth, a paper that says recent public funding for R&D in the UK has produced a 20 per cent return. Haskel calls this “pretty damn good”, and it is certainly much higher than the interest rate on UK government debt. Other studies have found that public funding “crowds in” private investment, Haskel says.

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