Google chief criticises Britain's lack of technological innovation


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The Independent Online

The executive chairman of Google has lambasted Britain as a society that favours "luvvies" over "boffins" and warned that unless it takes action to support science in education and business "the UK will continue to be where inventions are born – but not bred for long-term success".

Painting a bleak picture of Britain's future as a hub of technological innovation, Eric Schmidt said he was "flabbergasted" that computer science was not a standard subject in British schools. "That is just throwing away your great computing heritage," he said.

Mr Schmidt said Britain was "the home of so many media-related inventions", including photography and television. "You invented computers in both concept and practice," he said. "Yet today, none of the world's leading exponents in these fields are from the UK."

He said Britain had a fundamental problem in supporting innovative businesses. "The UK does a great job at backing small firms and cottage industries. But there's little point getting a thousand seeds to sprout if they're left to wither or get transplanted overseas."

Giving the prestigious annual James MacTaggart Lecture to an audience of media executives in Edinburgh, Mr Schmidt warned: "If you don't address this, then the UK will continue to be where inventions are born – but not bred for long-term success."

Mr Schmidt said Britain needed to look to its Victorian age when it held the sciences and the arts in equally high esteem. "You need to bring art and science back together," he said. "Think back to the glory days of the Victorian era. It was a time when the same people wrote poetry and built bridges. Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairy-tales of all time, he was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford."

A source in the Department for Education admitted there had been "serious problems with science policy reaching back many decades".

"Alan Sugar said engineers are no good at business," said Schmidt. "Take a lead from the Victorians and ignore Lord Sugar: bring engineers into your company at all levels."