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08 July 2010

Rebalancing the economy, starting with research

The Royal Academy of Engineering has set out its view that the central focus for government-funded science and engineering research in the UK must be the rebalancing of the economy towards a high-technology based manufacturing sector.

In a letter to Professor Adrian Smith, Director General Science and Research, Academy President Lord Browne of Madingley sets out the case for driving this process by concentrating engineering research in the country's best-performing universities.

The long term health of the UK economy is likely to depend in large measure on our ability to compete successfully with other technologically advanced (and advancing) nations. This argues strongly for retention of the UK's strong science and research base at currently funded levels. Engineering research is a crucial engine of delivery for the economy, enabling the commercialisation of innovation by creating systems that work in the real world and optimising process at scale, the Academy points out. However, engineering research often needs large scale physical equipment and space which means there are efficiencies to be gained from concentrating research in fewer universities than at present.

The Academy says that, in a financial climate where we cannot realistically support all the interesting areas of research that we would ideally like to, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should question how research in a given area will give the UK a technology lead; create new or sustain existing industries; reduce the cost to government in providing care and health provision; reduce the UK's carbon footprint or support a re-balancing of the economy.

At a time when the state of the economy in the UK is overwhelmingly the predominant concern of Government and the nation, the available Science and Research budget should be targeted where it will have most impact in the foreseeable future, as far as possible without compromising unforeseen developments. Future potential will never be realised if the nation has not created the means to exploit it, the Academy points out.

To see the full copy of the letter and to read the Academy's response to the Director General, Science and Research, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

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Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.

For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton

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