The relationship between scientific research and business is vital to Britain’s economic future. But using top research universities to promote economic development requires a subtlety and understanding that is not evident in the government’s science strategy. Indeed, odd though it sounds, by focusing on ideas as the means of creating wealth, we are making a big mistake. People create wealth, and we need to get the right people into the right places.
The link between scientific research and economic growth is well established and, in academic terms, Britain is well placed—much better than France, for instance, where Jacques Chirac has just announced the formation of an agency for industrial innovation. Britain has eight of the world’s top 50 universities, with scientific research a particular strength. Although it has only 1 per cent of the world’s population, it produces 5 per cent of the world’s scientific research, and achieves 12 per