Youngsters are being denied careers in the science industry because of Government failure to invest in academic research, supermarket tycoon Lord Sainsbury was told when he visited a Southgate School.

More than 150 people joined the Science Minister at the school in Sussex Way for the launch of its specialist science school status and the opening of a new laboratory.

But the Government peer came under a volley of criticism from fellow guest Professor Heather Van der Lely, who said his appearance was nothing more than a pre-election photo opportunity'.

The top scientist, a language expert at University College London, used her position on the podium to accuse the Government of underfunding scientific research.

She said: "It's a complete waste of time investing money in wonderful new science facilities in schools like this if there is then very little money going into scientific research to provide a career for these promising young science students."

She said though the Government claims to spend more on scientific research than ever before, the cash is ploughed into the upkeep of buildings rather than research itself.

She said: "We are opening a terrific new science wing for young people, but if there is no money ploughed into research there will be no career for these young people."

Professor Van der Lely, of Clerkenwell, also said her own area of study, children who have language impairment, was starved of funds.

"It's a tragedy for these disadvantaged children, and it's a huge cost to society in lost potential which we cannot overlook," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Science and Technology refuted Professor Van der Lely's accusations. She said the Government's science budget had doubled since 1997, and would continue to rise to £3.3billion by 2008.

"We have a plan that will look in to funding for the next ten years," she added.