By politics.co.uk staff
David Willetts made the case for continued science funding today in his first major speech in government.
The science minister argued that the UK must maintain a strong research base but accepted that he will have to make the case for that to the Treasury and to his boss, business secretary Vince Cable.
The speech, at the Royal Institute, noted that Labour funding of science allowed the UK to stand in some league tables as second only to America for the quality of its research.
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"Most importantly, I recognise my deep responsibility to the scientific community in these austere times," he said.
"The challenge we face is to make best use of our science base.
"Especially in a time of austerity, we inevitably think of the way it can contribute to economic growth. I strongly believe that contribution may come best if we encourage openness and innovation, not if we try to micromanage our universities, direct researchers or count patents.
"If we get the environment right, the evidence is overwhelmingly that scientific research can contribute to economic growth."
Government ministers are expected to find savings of up to 25% in their departments.