EPSRC future research funding

03 August 2011

The RSC, and many in the chemical science community, have been responding to last week's announcement by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) about future research funding. EPSRC have issued first stage information about funding priorities up to 2014, and have so far highlighted synthetic organic chemistry and catalysis as areas that will reduce, and increase, in funding respectively. Specific funding levels have not yet been clarified, and further information is likely to be released by EPSRC in two stages over the coming months. EPSRC presented initial information to RSC earlier this year, but did not ask for our input on which strategic areas should be prioritised. Naturally, we are seeking further information.

The RSC worked hard in the run up to last year's Comprehensive Spending Review, producing a report (co-sponsored by the EPSRC) on the economic benefits of chemistry, which was disseminated to all MPs and senior civil servants. Thanks to this and our efforts to lobby David Willetts, the overall settlement for research was better than for most areas of government spending and considerably less damaging to UK science than could have been the case.

Despite our efforts, and those of the whole science community, the overall research budget is being frozen in cash terms over the next three years. As you would expect, we are continuing our efforts to highlight the issues affecting chemical sciences to government and funders.

According to Prof. David Phillips: "This research funding reduction of 12-15% in real terms will clearly have a negative impact in some areas. The reduction in the number of studentships outlined by EPSRC, along with cuts to funding for capital spending could also affect the future of UK chemistry - and these are issues that the RSC will continue to lobby government about in the coming weeks and months. We realise that individuals and groups in our community are, and will be, affected and we sympathise with their concerns."

Dr Robert Parker, interim chief executive of the RSC added: "Funding cuts have to be acknowledged, and addressed, given the challenging circumstances now facing science funding nationally. The RSC recognises this and is working for the best possible outcome for chemistry as a whole. EPSRC needs to consult with the community to fully understand the impact of their decisions."

Prof. Phillips continued: "It's also important to be pragmatic in an imperfect situation. Some of those affected by reduced funding may be able to find support through other routes. There are areas that have been earmarked for increased funding, and there may be opportunities to undertake collaborative, multidisciplinary research. RSC is investigating how we might be able to support the community in doing this."

"In almost every facet of the business, industrial and academic communities, harsh decisions are being taken. It is vital that the community comes together to discuss how we can maintain and strengthen the chemical science base during the difficult times ahead. That is why we have launched a major consultation to define the future of chemistry in the UK. 

"In July, we brought together more than 75 representatives from industry, universities, schools, government and funding agencies help us define our vision for the UK Chemistry Landscape in 2020.

"We now urge our members, whether in academia, industry or education, to look at the proposals and share their views. This is by far the best chance that we, as a community, have to put our message across to Government and to hold them accountable for decisions which will affect the future chemistry and by implication, the future of discovery, innovation and wealth generation in the UK."

Over the coming days, RSC will be contacting members with more information about this consultation. To see the proposals in more detail and to have your say, please go to visit the Chemistry Landscape link at the end of this page. 

We will also continue to monitor the situation regarding EPSRC funding closely, and will keep members informed. If you have thoughts or comments, please contact Jim Iley, Director, Science and Education, in the first instance.

Related Links

Link icon Chemical & Engineering News article on EPSRC funding
The UK's main funding body angers researchers over budget-tightening policies

Link icon David Phillips talks to Research Fortnight about the future of chemistry
We must shout louder, says David Phillips

Link icon David Phillips on EPSRC funding in the Guardian
Chemistry cuts will do irreparable damage, top scientists warn

Link icon Chemistry Landscape
The home of the Chemistry Landscape on MyRSC

External links will open in a new browser window

Contact and Further Information

Press Office