More on science in the new Parliament

An adviser to the Parliamentary Officer for Science and Technology (POST, which tweets here) has written a blog post on the CaSE website. In it he describes the status of various science interest groups in Parliament such as the Science and Technology Select Committee in the House of Commons, the cross party interest group the Parliamentary and Science Committee, the Science and Technology Select Committee in the Lords – now including Lord Rees and POST itself. He also mentions a few events that have happened with science in mind.

One event he didn’t mention, no doubt due to it happening after he composed the blog entry, was a conference The Times held between CEOs of big business in the UK and members of the Coalition Government. In their leading article summarising what happened (for which you’d need to register for a free trial to get behind the paywall or buy the paper to see…), one illuminating anecdote is the one shown below about what the CEOs want the Government to do to help them:

Many voices yesterday suggested that Britain could do more to foster clusters of excellence. The case for investment in high added value was made dramatically by Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce. He held up a turbine blade, smaller than his hand, grown out of a single crystal, to give it strength, and drilled by lasers with fine holes to enable it to spin at very high temperatures. The blade was developed by 37 universities and 35 companies, and was protected by 40 patents. It is worth as much in weight as silver, he said. A car, by comparison, has the same value pound for pound as a hamburger.

This feat of engineering offered both hope and a warning. Britain will not produce these “crown jewels” without an educated, skilled workforce. One of the main themes at yesterday’s gathering was the lack of coherent government focus on this core need. Britain could, in theory, compete well with countries where average wages were far lower, many said, but only if its workers could control quality and pace of production, and drive productivity higher. A better grounding in science and technology would also inject into the workforce the flexibility that Britain has sorely lacked.


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