Lib Dems to protect science funds

The Liberal Democrats would extend the science research budget ring fence throughout the next Parliament under manifesto plans for the next election, the party has announced.

Vince Cable says supporting innovative businesses is crucial to building a stronger economy
Vince Cable says supporting innovative businesses is crucial to building a stronger economy

Proposals to protect the science research budget in the long term over a period of 10 years in total were included in a package of measures unveiled by the Lib Dems to "support innovative" UK businesses.

The announcement comes after Business Secretary Vince Cable demanded that the £4.6 billion science research budget was ring fenced, the party said. The funding is mainly allocated through universities and science research councils.

The Coalition has protected the science budget in a "ring fence" throughout the current Parliament.

Plans also included the introduction of a "green innovation arm" to the British Business Bank to help expand innovation funding in the UK green technology sector.

Plus further support for the "Catapult" programme, launched in 2011 by Mr Cable, through £100 million of funding over the next Parliament to extend its "scope and reach".

The programme, the party said, was aimed at transforming ideas into commercial realities through bridging the gap between universities, research institutions and business.

The recently launched driverless cars development had benefited from the programme.

Mr Cable said: "Supporting innovative businesses is crucial to building a stronger economy in Britain. There are hundreds of businesses and individuals across the country with a good idea, pioneering groundbreaking research or working tirelessly to bring their product to market.

"In Government we have fought to protect funding for these innovations, and we will continue to do so in the next Parliament. We will not allow others to scrap this vital funding because of a short term outlook, rather than invest in the people who are building the businesses of tomorrow.

"Liberal Democrats recognise that providing the support that these businesses need is central to our work to build a stronger economy and a fairer society where there is opportunity for everyone to get on in life."

The party also proposed to align the Business Growth Fund and British Business Bank programmes to "spread best practice across the two" so more medium sized businesses could be supported.