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The UK Department for International Development (DFID) will increase its funding for scientific research by nearly 60 per cent over the next three years, Hilary Benn, the minister responsible for the department, announced yesterday (9 March).

The increased funding for activities financed by the department's Central Research Department will take DFID's support for science from 86 million pounds sterling (US$170 million) this year to 136 million pounds sterling (US$260 million) in 2007.

In line with the research priorities it announced last year, the UK aid agency will divide the bulk of these funds between four programmes: agriculture in Africa, 'killer' diseases (primarily HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria); climate change; and helping to implement policy structures that "help the poor".

The announcement of the extra spending was made in a speech delivered by Benn to the John Smith Institute in London, United Kingdom. He said that he hoped that the extra money "will be an inspiration to the wider development community to follow suit". 

Benn also said that 'partnership' was the key word for how DFID would use science to help meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. This included partnership among UK government bodies, with international organisations, between researchers in the North and the South, and between the public and private sectors.

In a briefing last week, Gordon Conway, who was recently appointed DFID's first chief scientific advisor, indicated that the agency would continue to support capacity building in developing countries through its existing research programmes, rather than by creating a dedicated programme.