The government is to give the UK's research councils an extra £400 million for new projects and £300 million to improve the infrastructure in Britain's universities. The Wellcome Trust, a medical research charity, is provide a further £300 million for universities. The trust will also contribute £100 million towards the construction of a third-generation synchrotron radiation source in the UK.

According to the government, the extra £400 million for the research councils will be "for priority areas like life sciences", while at least half of the infrastructure funds will be used to support research in the biomedical sciences. The rest will go on "other high priority areas, including the underpinning disciplines of chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics."

Under existing plans the UK science budget was earmarked to remain at £1349 million from this year through to 2001/2. The new government money will increase the science budget to £1474 million in 1999/2000, £1588 million the year after, and £1659 million in 2001/2. The Wellcome Trust already spends some £250 million on research every year.

The pressure group Save British Science said: "This has been a good day for British science."