Research Matters: 'Each year, it's British scientists who are the real champions'

Decades of discovery and innovation have been driving UK economic successes

January is traditionally a time for reviewing the year gone by, and I think we can agree that 2012 was spectacular. It was a year when the UK demonstrated yet again that in global races, we often lead the world.

Most of us would probably choose the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as the high point, and I'm no different. It was not just the breathtaking opening ceremony, or superb medal-winning performances from Team GB and Paralympics GB – the Games make my list also because of the world-leading science and research that supported the athletes' exceptional performances (bit.ly/ J1TFwm). Without pioneering research in design, equipment, psychology and training techniques, our haul of medals might not have been quite so impressive.

But the UK's world-leading research doesn't just underpin success in sport. There is now ample evidence across the world's advanced economies that high performance in research brings widespread economic success and social wellbeing.

This is why, in another economically challenging year, it has been so crucial to continue to invest in science and research. Speaking at the Royal Society in November last year, the Chancellor George Osborne identified eight pioneering, research-led technologies that he believes could stimulate the future health and prosperity of our economy and our society (bit.ly/Ro8D2E).

In his subsequent autumn statement, he underlined the commitment to UK research by announcing £600m of additional investment. Areas that will benefit include synthetic biology, regenerative medicine and advanced materials. As you can imagine, such investment is a natural high point of the year for me, because areas such as these have the potential to bring value to the UK for years to come.

Scientific discoveries and research innovations have been yearly highlights in the UK for decades. They are one of our great, untrumpeted success stories year after year. In 2012, there were too many breakthroughs to list easily, but some things you may have heard about include: the discovery of a new Alzheimer's "risk" gene; advances in super-computing; and the investment by my own council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to strengthen the impact of arts and humanities research in the fastest growing sector of our economy, the creative industries, represented so lavishly in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. But all of the research we are funding brings such benefits directly or indirectly to the UK.

Perhaps the most high-profile scientific discovery of 2012 was the confirmation of the Higgs boson particle. Research by the teams at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which receives funding from the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, contributed in a major way to this discovery. Since the 1960s when Professor Peter Higgs – who was among those in the Queen's New Year Honours list – first suggested the idea, he, and many other scientists, have devoted their careers to the challenge of demonstrating the existence of these elusive particles – and thus to winning another gold medal for UK science.

The years ahead for UK research will of course include challenges in this fiscally unstable time. Science and research needs continuous investment to stay at the leading edge. But the world is full of exciting challenges and opportunities, especially for those now embarking on their research careers. Not every year will be as spectacular as 2012, but in becoming part of the UK's science and research endeavour you will undoubtedly be joining a winning team.

For further information on Research Councils UK visit www.rcuk.ac.uk

News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links