The new government must be honest about prioritising the spending of limited research funds, say Jonathan Adams and Daniel Hook.
Against all expectations, not only are the Conservatives back in government, they have strengthened their position. Chancellor George Osborne’s support for research has been notable. A critical challenge now is to devise a strategy that sets priorities despite inadequate resources. We need some honesty about what seems essential but cannot be done.
During the election campaign, all parties agreed that research investment was essential to any competitive economic strategy. Most discussion was around protecting the overall science budget and directing some funds through one route or another. The Tories talked about a “bold and comprehensive offer for Britain’s researchers” via capital projects focused on eight technologies. The Liberal Democrats wanted more Catapult innovation centres. Labour spoke of helping hi-tech knowledge clusters “outside the south-east”.