Brown wants science and technology to surpass financial services

28 Feb 2009 View Comments
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Gordon Brown
Brown: We require a new focus

Gordon Brown has said he wants science and technology to replace financial services as the heart of the UK economy.

Giving the Romanes Lecture at Oxford University on Friday, the prime minister highlighted the innovation capability of the country as key to economic recovery.
“At this defining moment in the modern-day history of the British economy, is it not time to reconsider how to refocus our intellectual resources to reflect better the goals of our society,” he said.

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“And to move away from an economy centred so heavily on financial services – and on finding ever more arcane ways to price complex derivatives - to one that is broader-based with a new focus on science and innovation.”

Brown said the UK needs to be better at turning its bright ideas into businesses – a common criticism of British science and technology in the past.

“The success of our plan for building the knowledge economy as the best route to recovery hinges on continued investment in science today and on our ability to commercialise its applications - to turn scientific genius into successful technology-led economic growth for Britain. Because this is how Britain will invest our way into the future,” he said.

Brown said the UK will invest more in science and technology over the next decade than at any time in its history, and acknowledged that other countries are already ahead in making such a commitment. He cited Barack Obama's plan to double science spending in the US, with $21bn of the president's economic stimulas package going into research and development.

“As a nation we need to secure more than our share of jobs, trade and business in these sectors; with science, engineering and technology now - more than ever before - the foundation of Britain’s economic success,” said Brown.

“This in turn will require a new focus, backed by priority national investment in skills, research and national infrastructure, and in major physical and intellectual capacity-building - as we make a fundamental shift in the underlying structure of the economy.”

The prime minister has also tasked science minister Lord Drayson with helping science and technology startups to gain the backing they need to commercialise their ideas and create new jobs.

“Lord Drayson is urgently looking at early-stage high value, high intellectual property companies, to remove the barriers they face in obtaining the venture capital they need to help them bring products to market, and to position them to develop further as the economic cycle turns,” he said.

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