In a speech at Queen Mary, University of London, Business Secretary Vince Cable examined how we can economise without damaging science and the prospects for growth.
Referring to the upcoming Spending Review, he said that over the next few weeks and months major decisions will be made on Government spending priorities.
Setting out the Government’s approach to funding science, he stressed that Government valued research - and spent £4.3 billion a year backing it.
But he rejected the school of thought that said Government commitment to science and technology is measured by how much money we spend.
Dr Cable said:
“Money is important both for the quality and quantity. But it is an input, not an output, measure. The question I have to address is can we achieve more with less?”
He said the UK needs a wide spectrum of research activity and should ration research funding by excellence to “screen out mediocrity”
“There is no justification for taxpayers money being used to support research which is neither commercially useful nor theoretically outstanding.”
Dr Cable outlined the considerable evidence of the connection between innovation and economic performance and said that the key is to find ways of “transforming research into innovation”. These include building stronger links between the UK’s science and research base and the business community.
He said he approved of the Hauser review’s recommendation to promote a network of Technology and Innovation Centres, based on the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany, and is “looking closely at how and how quickly we can roll out such a programme”.
A new environment
In concluding, Dr Cable said that he believed science, research and innovation are vital to this country’s future economic growth - but they need to operate in a new, more financially constrained environment.
“I want to lay down a challenge to the science and business communities today. That we come together, work together and plan a future together that makes the most of this country’s competitive advantages in financially difficult circumstances for the benefit of us all.”