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Hazardous conditions

Despite spending reassurances, uncertainties for research remain

The knowledge that the UK is facing its biggest economic slump since the Great Frost hit Europe in 1709 brings a certain perspective to even the most lukewarm of government spending promises. As the financial chilling effect of Covid-19 emerges, chancellor Rishi Sunak’s confirmation that R&D will receive a boost of almost £2 billion next year felt like cause for cheer, albeit muted. 

The sector was denied the visibility of full R&D budgets for the next four years, which would have been laid out under normal, pre-pandemic proceedings. But the £14.6bn pledged for R&D in 2021-22 in last week’s scaled-back spending review is probably just about enough, for now, to keep the government on track to meet its pledge of £22bn per year for research by 2024-25. 

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