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Budget 2020: Supercharged Science

11 Mar 2020

In a welcome move, the Government has used the Spring Budget to supercharge public investment in science.

CaSE has responded to plans announced in today’s budget to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25. The budget commitment exceeds the Conservative commitment to double science investment to £18bn by that same year. 

Commenting on the announcement, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main:

“In a welcome move, the Government has supercharged public investment in science, delivering investment faster and further than it had promised.”

“Government has pushed hard to front-load public investment in the effort to boost the contribution of research and innovation to the UK economy and attract private R&D investment to follow. Additionally, this investment has the potential to accelerate the Government’s efforts to tackle challenges such as net zero, flooding and new treatments for diseases, such as coronavirus, set out in the budget.”

“This is an ambitious program and a huge investment in a short period of time. It must be spent well to ensure that an R&D decade delivers real benefit for everyone in the UK. A multi-year plan is essential at the spending review to ensure that the added value of overseas investment to the economy and personal prosperity to people around the UK are achieved.”

Key Takeaways

  • The Chancellor pledged to increase public R&D expenditure to £22bn in the year 2024/25, greatly surpassing previous targets set by the Government. The budget document states this will represent 0.8% of GDP in 2024/25
  • This uplift exceeds CaSE’s projections to reach a research intensity of 2.4% of GDP by 2027, which can be found here.

Specific funding announcements in Budget 2020

  • £800 million towards a new blue-skies funding agency to invest in high-risk, high-reward science, modelled on ‘ARPA’ in the United States
  • £200 million investment programme with the British Business Bank towards health and life sciences innovation.
  • £400 million for investment in research, infrastructure and equipment across the UK, particularly in basic research and physical sciences.
  • £300 million for experimental mathematical research to attract global talent over the next five years. This will double funding for new PhDs and increase the number of maths fellowships and research projects.
  • £80 million over the next five years to UK institutions, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal College of Art and the Institute of Cancer Research. At the CSR, the government will examine how R&D funding as a whole can best be distributed across the country to help level up every region and nation of the country.
  • £900 million to ensure UK businesses are leading the way in high-potential technologies. This will involve commercialising nuclear fusion technology, offering potentially limitless clean energy, and supporting the government’s National Space Strategy and space innovation fund.
  • £16.4 million in the Artificial Intelligence and Data Grand Challenge over the next three years, including £6.8 million for the ONS Data Science Campus to make it easier to share more, higher-quality data across government.

R&D Tax Credits

  • R&D tax credit will also be increased from 12% to 13%, with a review on widening the eligibility of activities included under the relief, as recommended by CaSE.

Green Initiatives

  • £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles.
  • Removing the entitlement to use red diesel from April 2022, except in agriculture, fish farming, rail and for non-commercial heating (including domestic heating)

Government Science Capabilities

  • £2 million in 2020-21 to expand the cross-cutting strategic science and resilience capabilities provided by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Government Office for Science.
  • £1.4 billion over 10 years in the animal health science facility at Weybridge, the government will enhance this world-class capability, underpinning agricultural trade and protecting the UK from the increasing threats of current and emerging animal diseases.
  • £180 million over 6 years for a new storage and research facility for the Natural History Museum at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

Education and Skills

  • £95 million for providers in England to support the rollout of T levels. Funding will support T level routes being delivered from autumn 2021, including construction, digital, and health and science
  • Every region in the country will receive funding for specialist maths schools.


  • Immigration Health Surcharge will be increased to £624 for EEA adult nationals