Building Britains Future – But Will It Be On Science?

The Most Powerful Man in British Science

The Most Powerful Man in British Science?

As British Politics seems to be mainly concerned with lies & deceit these days it was refreshing to to see Science Minister Lord Drayson popping up on Twitter yesterday to address the concerns of the scientific community. Most of the science community were as shocked to be tweeting with a government minister as they would be to wake up next to Britney Spears/ Tom Cruise.

Drayson’s message echoed that of his boss, that the science budget is safe, and has been ‘ring fenced’ despite the recent government reshuffle having removed the full time post of a minister for science, and merged the Department of Innovation Universities and Skills into Peter Mandelson’s new super ministry of Business, Innovation and Skills.

There are still worries though. The science budget has been raided before to bail out Rover and British Energy, and the currently over optimistic forecasts for UK growth will punch ever bigger holes in the UK budget.

OK that’s the science tweeps pacified, but now lets get down to business. While scientists are happy just to be funded, my major focus is doing something with that science. In Austria, for example, we have deployed over sixty million euros since 2005 across a variety of nanotechnology projects, and managed to nudge them inexorably in the direction of commercial applications. Can we do that in the UK?

Drayson tweeted to me that “We absolutely recognise the strategic value of science. The global challenges we face demand it” and set himself a challenge with “I really believe science agenda is stronger now in govt than ever. It’s up to me to prove it though in the future.”

While we agreed that future prosperity will be built on the combination of science and entrepreneurship (and occasionally scientific entrepreneurs) there are still a number of pieces of the puzzle missing – bridging the early stage funding gap for instance.

The conclusion of all of this tweeting is that we have a part time science minister who recognises the value of science and entrepreneurship, and will be fighting his corner. Whether anything will come out of this is a different matter.

The FT reveals that the latest government relaunch will be branded “Building Britain’s Future.” It will be interesting to see what part science plays in the that future.

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