What’s The Point of Universities?

It’s a provocative question, but one I thought worth asking to David Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary, Desmond Swayne MP last week. The MP was visiting Ilkley as a guest of our local MP, Kris Hopkins, with the aim of getting feedback from local businesses about what could be done to get the economy moving. It’s not a bad idea, as the usual …

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You Can Lead a Politician To H2O, But You Can’t Make Him Drink

Talking of leaving the old ideas behind, here’s a great blog post by Hilary Sutcliffe asking whether ‘nutters’ or those with extreme views have too much influence on policy. While many take the view that we are living in a golden age of science, or second industrial revolution, progress towards a sustainable future is at risk from the twin threats …

What Use Is Nanotechnology?

Technology Review, besides being a great magazine edited by Jason Pontin, who I have known since the heyday of Red Herring, also puts on some great conferences. So I was excited and honoured to be invited to EmTech Spain, a two day conference in Malaga focussing on emerging technologies. Along with my World Economic Forum colleague Javier García Martínez of …

Innovation Starvation or Risk Avoidance?

While working on our report on Using Emerging Technologies to Address Global Risks, one of my favourite SciFi authors, Neal Stephenson, popped up with an essay on Innovation Starvation. It echoes Tyler Cowen‘s arguments that all the easy big stuff has been done,  and that all we have left to look forward to are incremental improvements rather than world changing …

What Is Technology For?

(Foreword to Using Emerging Technologies to Address Global Risks , October 2011) This is a question that often comes up in our dealings with global policy makers who spend huge sums on scientific research while simultaneously being fearful of its consequences. Many believe that it is somehow important for the economy in an undefined and non-quantifiable manner, or that it is some …

For Two Thousand Years Nothing Much Happened And Then….

                      A thought provoking (and initially baffling) graphic from the Economist (via the work of Angus Maddison) which shows that “over 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010”. It would be  interesting to see whether the same is true of human …

Throbbing Gristle

Plenty of news about artificial meat this weekend will give anyone dealing with public acceptance of science something to think about. Chemical & Engineering News reports that “Hanna L. Tuomisto, a graduate student at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, and M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos, a microbial physiologist at the University of Amsterdam, used a modeling approach called life-cycle assessment to …

What I Learned From Other Peoples Ideas

I seem to have spent most of this year reviewing funding proposals for a wide variety of institutions around the world. I do get the occasional flicker of annoyance from academics, but as someone who knows about the business side of technology a lot of governments find a more commercial perspective very useful. The two striking aspects of this year’s …

What Are Emerging Technologies For?

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and re evaluate what we are doing and why, something my good friend Doug Mather of the Creation Company has been urging people to do for years. It is very easy, whether in science or in business to develop myopia or tunnel vision, concentrating so hard on one particular task or goal …