First Look

David Willetts aims to make Britain the best place in the world to do science

British High Commission Kingston | 2012-01-09 13:50:00


In a speech at Policy Exchange, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will argue that our greatest national assets - our universities, our science facilities and researchers - are the best single hope for making our way in the high-tech world of the future, creating jobs and opportunities and boosting high tech economic growth.
He will say that “If properly nurtured they can ensure that Britain will be up there as a leading location for research in the physical and life sciences and beyond. Britain can be the preferred location for companies’ R&D. We can have world-class industries using cutting-edge technologies. We can have a prosperous future with a role in the world.”
The UK already has some of the world’s best universities and most productive research communities but to help Britain become the best place in the world for science and research David Willetts will announce:
• An invitation for proposals for a new type of university with a focus on science and technology and on postgraduates. There will be no additional Government funding.
• The creation of a new Catapult centre in satellite applications, providing businesses with access to orbit test facilities, to develop and demonstrate new technologies.
• Setting up Leadership Councils in E-Infrastructure and in Synthetic Biology bringing together key players to drive forward private investment and innovation.
• An ambition for universities funding from external sources to grow by 10% over the next three years.
• An aim to get more universities into the top 100 in the world.
David Willetts will set out his ambitions for a high-tech strategy:
“Globalisation is still at its early stages when it comes to Higher Education. The next round of new institutions may well link existing British universities with international partners. The surge in international investment in science and technology would make this a key part of the mission of a new foundation. It might be that today’s institutions propose a new campus or a new international partnership. Or it might be new providers wanting to enter with different models. Today I can announce therefore that the Coalition is inviting proposals for a new type of university with a focus on science and technology and on postgraduates. Local economic partnerships, universities, businesses and international partners can come together to put forward proposals for new institutions.
“There will be no additional Government funding. This time we will be looking to private finance and perhaps sponsorship from some of the businesses that are keen to recruit more British graduates. For example, we will not be diverting funding from support for undergraduate students. It is an opportunity to seize the new freedoms which we proposed in our White Paper last year. We already have a lot of interest and we want to move this to the next level. As proposals are developed we will be able to identify any specific obstacles that need to be removed including by legislation where necessary. A major city might wish to offer a site as Mayor Bloomberg has just done so successfully with his competition for a new graduate school in New York. We will be discussing with the interested organisations how best to carry this initiative forward. I am confident that with ingenuity we can grow our research base and our universities even when times are tough.”
He will conclude:
“The critics of our economic policies focus on arguments about a short-term stimulus but what really matters is long term growth. That is what our high tech enterprise strategy is all about. Times like this have persuaded many of us that it is necessary to back the technologies of the future so that we can rebalance our economy. Every Government tries to do it. The only question is whether you recognise it and do it properly or whether you just let it happen as the aggregate of the host of decisions you have to take anyway. This Coalition, faced with the crucial challenge of sustaining growth after the deepest recession since the War, has a strategy for high tech enterprise. We can be proud of it because it is coherent, serious and rests on a commitment to the future of our country and its economic base.” 

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