THE new chairman of the Diamond Light Source particle accelerator research facility has vowed to press the case for funding for the facility in the run-up to next year’s general election.
Sir Adrian Smith, former director general at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, was announced as the successor to Lord Alec Broers at the Harwell site earlier this month.
But the statistician has said he will be talking to politicians and championing the protection of scientific budgets before voters go to the polls on May 7 next year.
Speaking about his new position for the first time, he told the Oxford Mail: “With government I had oversight of research councils and science policy so I was well acquainted with Diamond before I took up the post.
“It’s wonderful scientifically but also expensive to run, so you get into all the usual science politics, especially with an election coming up.
“That is part of the chairman’s role.
“I have to be a champion for the facility and show why it is so important. As those such as (former minister for Universities and Science) David Willetts have pointed out, the UK is going to have a knowledge-based economy in the future.
“There has been some protective funding of science already, but the uncertainty is over what will happen after the election. Diamond is the jewel in the crown of British science infrastructure and at a critical stage at the moment, so I anticipate we will be pulling out all the stops to let everyone know how important it is.”
The Government has so far ringfenced science spending, split between universities and seven research councils, despite a raft of public sector cuts in other areas.
Last month, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the case for support for science and innovation was “unequivocal”, but that the UK had a problem of “underinvestment” in the sector.
He said: “Our mission is to establish the UK as a leading knowledge economy. But critical as it is to have a healthy, profitable private sector, it will not on its own generate large scale innovation. That requires a commitment to public investment in science and innovation.”
He called for the doubling of some science budgets, including that of the Technology Strategy Board, which funds the Catapult science innovation centres. The Satellite Applications Catapult is based in the Harwell science cluster near Didcot.
Last year the Government pledged to increase science capital funding to £1.1bn in 2015 to 2016.
It has also said the £4.6bn science and research programmes budget will be frozen whilst spending reviews rumble on in other departments.
Mr Cable said the coalition Government’s long-term aim was to increase the science budget in line with inflation up to 2021.
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