British science `in deep decline'

BRITAIN IS turning into a third- rate country for scientific research because of years of under-investment and a public mistrust of the new gene technology, says one of the country's leading industrialists.

Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of the pharmaceuticals giant, Glaxo-Wellcome, warned that some developing countries were poised to overtake Britain because of a significant decline in scientific expertise, exemplified by a failure to understand the importance of biotechnology by the public and government.

Sir Richard, who will raise his concerns today in his presidential address to the British Association's Annual Festival of Science in Sheffield, said public fears over GM food and the Government's refusal to give planning permission for a biotechnology park in Cambridge are examples of the wrong message Britain is sending to the world.

"Government messages and actions have not always been consistent," Sir Richard said yesterday. "A good example is the refusal to approve the Wellcome Trust's development of the biotechnology park at Hinxton Hall, which is a world-leading facility for genomic research."

The Wellcome Trust, an independent research charity with no direct links other than shareholdings with Glaxo-Wellcome, has threatened to take its biotechnology park overseas if the Government refuses to reconsider. Sir Richard said the debate over GM food has failed to highlight potential benefits of the bio-industry and caused deep public disquiet over a technology that can offer many benefits.

"It is now possible the outcomes of the present anti-GM food campaign will be detrimental to this country," Sir Richard said. "It will lead to a failure to develop UK companies based upon technology developed here, and loss of technical expertise as funding by major international companies is withdrawn and disadvantage for British agriculture.

"The development of the technology will continue elsewhere and its full potential and rewards will be realised by our competitors."

Among emerging countries showing signs of outpacing British scientific expertise, in Singapore, Korea and the Czech Republic, children perform consistently better in science and maths than British students, Sir Richard said.

"It is the long tail of under-achievement that drags down our performance. There must be concern about the fact that young people are losing interest in the sciences, and the consequent decline in students taking sciences at A-level and at university must be reversed.

"The UK has a science base which is world-class and punches above its weight in its outputs," Sir Richard added. "But the records of the past are no guarantee for future success."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000

£14000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued success, this ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Design Consultant - Kitchens & Interiors

£12000 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Surveyor

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Security Officer

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of commercial security solution...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works