British R&D tops the value league

Britain may lag behind in research and development investment, but it is top of the league when it comes to value for money from research, according to the chief scientific adviser to the Government, Sir Robert May. Speaking at a symposium on innovation hosted by consultancy group Generics, May said that in absolute terms the […]

Britain may lag behind in research and development investment, but it is top of the league when it comes to value for money from research, according to the chief scientific adviser to the Government, Sir Robert May.

Speaking at a symposium on innovation hosted by consultancy group Generics, May said that in absolute terms the UK spends less as a ratio of GDP on the science base than other OECD countries.

If spending is scaled against population, however, the UK comes tenth, ahead of the US and Germany. Scotland, if considered separately, would be third.

But based on the number of academic papers per million pounds spent, Britain comes out top of the league. ‘Britain is strong out of all proportion to its size in in creating new knowledge but with some striking exceptions not nearly so good at capturing the wealth that flows from that knowledge,’ said May.

‘There are weaker links in the UK than, for example, in the US between the science base and exploitable technology.’

The next round of Foresight will address these links.

A Government review concluded that progress had been patchy. A ministerial group was set up to give the initiative political direction and drive through recommendations on the policy-making processes.

The blueprint for the second round of Foresight, which is due to report in 2000, is being finalised for publication towards the end of this year.