* Britain to increase ESA contribution
* Targets 30 bln pound space industry
* Govt spared science budget austerity cuts
By Chris Wickham
LONDON, Nov 9 Britain will pump an extra 300
million pounds into the European Space Agency (ESA) over the
next five years, it said on Friday, securing a bigger role in
ESA's operations as Britain aims to triple the size of its space
As part of the funding deal, the Paris-based agency will
transfer its telecoms satellite headquarters to Harwell,
Oxfordshire, with the creation of around 100 jobs.
Science Minister David Willetts said the increased annual
contribution of around 240 million pounds marked a step change
in British space funding.
"It will drive growth, create extra skilled jobs and help
the UK to realise its ambition to have a 30 billion pound space
industry by 2030," he said.
Britain's space sector has an estimated turnover of 9
billion pounds a year and has seen annual growth of about 7.5
percent in the last few years.
The investment is aimed squarely at securing a direct
economic benefit and UK Space Agency chief David Williams said
the new money would "ensure that UK industry continues to win
lucrative space contracts over the next five to 10 years."
The extra cash was announced by finance minister George
Osborne in a speech on Friday at The Royal Society, Britain's
national science academy.
Aside from space, Osborne said the government wanted to
focus scientific research in areas it believes Britain can lead
the world: computing, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine,
agricultural science, energy storage technology, advanced
materials and nanotechnology and robotics.
Paul Nurse, president of The Royal Society, welcomed
Osborne's backing for science but said: "Please remember to put
your money where your mouth is".
Science has been spared the severe funding cuts seen in
other spending areas, though flat research budgets have been
eroded by inflation and capital spending on equipment and the
maintenance of laboratories has been cut sharply.
Imran Khan, Director of the Campaign for Science and
Engineering, urged the government to make a sustainable,
long-term commitment to science and tackle the cuts imposed by
the below-inflation cash settlement.
European science ministers meet in the Italian port of
Naples on Nov. 20 to set the ESA's annual budget over the next
few years. Its funding could come under pressure as EU
governments cut spending to reduce big deficits in the wake of
the global financial crisis.
Its current budget of just over 4 billion euros is about a
quarter of the U.S. civil space budget.
Despite the increase, Britain will likely remain the fourth
biggest contributor to the ESA behind Germany, France and Italy.