Follow the Far East model in science funding, says RSC chief

01 November 2011

Britain should end its freeze on science spending and follow in the footsteps of Japan if it wants to drive economic growth, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry's chief executive.

Speaking at the official opening of the RSC's office in Ochanomizu, Tokyo, Dr Robert Parker said a short-sighted approach to science funding, compared with international approaches, will inevitably leave the UK falling behind the rest of the world in research capabilities.

Dr Parker added: "Although the UK science budget has been frozen until 2015, this equates to an around 15 per cent cut over the next four years once inflation is taken into account.

"This year alone has seen a 5% drop in UK science funding and a 5.4% fall in research councils' budgets. Japan, on the other hand, decided on a 2.1% rise this year and is proposing another 5.8% rise in 2012.

"If only more countries like the UK followed the Japanese model, we would recover quicker from this economic stagnation thanks to the enormous contribution science and technology makes to our economy."

Japan's science and technology budget for 2011 gives priority to Green Innovation and Life Innovation, a review of the competitive funding system, and support for young researchers.

Japan remains one of the leading countries in the world in chemistry research, with advances in clean energy and novel processes in materials and electronics. 

The official opening of the RSC's Tokyo office comes a year after it signed a five-year International Co-Operation agreement with the Chemical Society of Japan.

"Although this is a sign of greater co-operation between the UK and Japan, our nations have scientific ties going back 150 years to the birth of the chemistry department at the University of Tokyo," said Dr Parker at the opening.

"The 19th century chemist and medic Edward Divers arrived in Japan in 1873 to teach general and applied chemistry at the Imperial College of Engineering, which was later incorporated into the University of Tokyo.

"And a Japanese scientist, Kuhara Mitsuru, is credited for having made the first contribution from the University of Tokyo to an RSC journal, published under our former incarnation as the Chemical Society.

"Now, as then, we hope the quality of research taking place in Japan regularly finds its way into RSC journals. The RSC is honoured to have so many good friends in Japan and our presence in Tokyo brings us closer to our Japanese members, as well as members of the CSJ, journal and book editorial and advisory board members and those that have worked with us, and will work with us, on scientific events and activities.

"Together we can tackle important global challenges through chemistry."

Notes for editors:

. The Royal Society of Chemistry's office is based in the same building as the Chemical Society of Japan, in Ochanomizu, Tokyo. The RSC also has international offices in China, the United States and India.

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