Lord demands funding for UK science breakthroughs

A House of Lords representative called for an increase in funding for the science sector in order to continue to attract the expertise that led to the Nobel prize-winning discovery of graphene’s properties.

Lord Rees of Ludley demanded that a four year decline in funding was reversed in order to continue to attract top talent like that of Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, the two Russians who came to the UK in 1999 to study at Manchester University, before making their famous discovery.

Now Lord Rees has demanded that more is done to continue to support scientists such as Geim and Novoselov, warning that while the initial experiment resulted in small costs, its subsequent development into a commercially viable material “will not be so cheap and it will be fully as intellectually challenging”.

The Lord went on to question whether the two Russians would now be attracted to a scientific environment in which the total UK funding does not even match that of the bonus pool for London’s bankers.

Indeed as England attempts to break away from dependence on its financial sector, Lord Rees suggested that by leading in scientific developments this would indeed be possible albeit if a welcoming environment is made, rather than a culture of cuts.

“Science and innovation are essential engines if we are to rebalance our economy away from an overdependence on the financial sector,” he said.

“Therefore, most crucial in enhancing value for money for taxpayers is not scraping a few per cent in efficiency savings; it is maximising the chance of big breakthroughs by attracting and supporting top mobile talent and sending positive signals to the young.”

Lord Rees called for a 10 to 15 year road map in which focus and support for innovation is guaranteed in order to “ensure that some of the key ideas of the 21st century are generated and, even more important, exploited here”.

The words of the Lords representative echoed that of IEEE president Moshe Kam, who, speaking to Techeye, highlighted his own concerns in the wider field of engineering and the decline that he perceived in the UK higher education system over the past few years.

Just like Lord Rees Kam highlighted the long term financial benefits of providing a positive environment and support network for engineers and scientists.