Government-Backed Science and Innovation Vital for Securing Britain’s Industrial Future
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has set out a vision for an industrial strategy underpinned by technological advances.
In a major speech at the University of East Anglia, David Willetts will argued that Government has a creative role to play in working with researchers, universities and business to promote innovation and get the greatest possible economic value.
As part of this approach David Willetts announced:
- The Biotechnology and Biological Research Council will invest £250 million in leading research institutes across the UK
- Government will invest up to £6.5 million to encourage businesses to explore new industrial applications for synthetic biology, through the Technology Strategy Board and research councils
- The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will provide a grant of almost £5 million to Imperial College London, Kings College London, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Newcastle to establish platform technology for synthetic biology
- The EPSRC will fund its first ever manufacturing fellowships – there will be four, each worth around £1 million
- The Government Office for Science will review and refresh the Foresight report on Technology and Innovation Futures: UK Growth Opportunities for the 2020s.
David Willetts also set out the action Government is already taking as part of its high-tech strategy, including creating incentives for business to invest in innovation and improving access to publicly-funded research. He said:
"There are some basic steps we can take which are far more effective than I imagined two years ago. We set up a leadership council probably co-chaired by a BIS minister and a senior industry figure in which researchers, businesses perhaps regulators and major public purchasers come together. We use it to get them talking to each other frankly. Then we commission a trusted expert to prepare a technology road map which assesses where the relevant technologies are heading over the next five years or so, what publicly funded research is going in to drive it, and what business is likely to do. Just this exercise, with no increase in public funding, can transform behaviour."
David Willetts will also set out the importance of agricultural research and technology, in parallel to industrial strategy:
"Compare Apple and the tomato. Apple is one of the great innovators. A lot of sophisticated science and engineering goes into an iPad or an iPhone. We like to think of the humble tomato as vey different. But the modern tomato is equally the product of generations of scientific advance which has developed genetic traits that give it the colour, taste, and shape we want as well as the capacity to stay ripe for longer. Since January this year, according to Google Scholar, well over 1,000 academic publications on tomato genetics have been published. We should all be a bit more willing to take pride in this scientific achievement rather than ignore it.
"We are not detached and above the fray. Instead we are engaged, creative and constructive… We are backing the risk takers, and are willing to take a risk ourselves. As Government is an insurance pool we can take bigger risks than any other player.”
Source: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 28/05/12
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