Thousands of highly skilled researchers, scientists and technicians working at UK universities will receive greater job protection thanks to two significant support packages announced by UK Government.
From this Autumn, research-intensive universities across Wales and the rest of the UK that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a series of UK Government grants and long-term, low interest loans covering up to 80% of their income losses caused by an expected decline in international students.
In addition, over £200million in new UK Government investment will be made immediately available to support researchers’ salaries and other costs such as laboratory equipment and fieldwork. This will allow universities across Wales to retain research talent and protect innovative, ground-breaking projects across the country. UK Research & Innovation will also redistribute a further £80million of existing funding to support Research and Development in UK universities.
The two support schemes will offer job security to up-and-coming researchers and ensure universities are able to progress their cutting-edge work, such as research into the effects of coronavirus on our wider society, antibiotics resistance, and new tech solutions to tackle plastic waste and climate change.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:
“The brilliance of our talented researchers and scientists has been absolutely critical not only to our medical response to coronavirus, but also as we begin to emerge from this pandemic in the UK’s economic recovery.
“The support we are putting in place will give our world-leading universities a lifeline by protecting jobs to ensure our best minds can continue discovering new innovations that benefit us all for generations to come.”
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said:
“Wales’ world-renowned universities are a key part of our economy and their scientists and researchers will play a vital role in driving recovery as we bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
“This extra UK Government funding will help protect highly-skilled posts and help ensure that future innovation in science and technology takes place in Wales.”
Some of the ground-breaking projects benefiting from today’s investment will include:
- Research into antibiotics resistance, ensuring life-saving drugs and treatments remain effective;
- The development of innovative new technologies to tackle climate change, including advanced computing and quantum technology;
- Solutions tackling the waste caused by the manufacture and use of plastics around the world; and
- Work to gain a greater understanding of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on our wider society, such as the impact of lockdown on people’s mental health.
Research and development (R&D) investment is critical to the UK economy – every £1 spent delivers £7 in economic and social benefits from helping to attract investment, boosting productivity and creating new jobs.
Science Minister, Amanda Solloway commented:
“Coronavirus has shown us all the importance of the UK’s world-class R&D ecosystem. It has also highlighted the inspirational dedication of our brilliant scientists and researchers.
“This package will protect thousands of highly skilled jobs and ensure the UK’s research community continue their vital work to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our society today, like tackling climate change, unlocking medical discovery and unleashing game-changing new technologies.”
Providing financial support for the UK’s world-leading research institutions impacted by the coronavirus pandemic is a priority for the University Research Sustainability Ministerial Taskforce, co-chaired by Science Minister Amanda Solloway and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.
Established in May, the Taskforce is identifying what support is needed to retain research talent and ensure the long-term sustainability of UK’s world-class research and development sector.
Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan said:
“Our world leading universities and the scientific research they undertake are a truly vital part of the UK’s society and our economy, and will continue to be so as we start to recover from Covid-19.
“We understand the difficulties universities are facing right now, which is why we announced a range of measures last month to ease financial pressures, and now I am delighted we are able to offer universities further financial support to protect vital research.”
The announcement follows the commitment by the UK Government at this year’s Budget to increase public investment in Research and Development to £22 billion each year by 2024/25, putting the UK on the path to increase investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
The UK Government has already committed to supporting university research and last month brought forward £100 million of university research funding by a year to provide immediate financial support.