Leading think tank calls for growth – without science?

Economic Growth?Imran Khan is Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering

Today saw the publication of a new report, snappily titled ‘Growth, growth, growth‘, authored by eight MPs, released by the Centre for Policy Studies, and apparently ignoring science.

The study carries some important messages – highlighting, for instance, the importance of moving away from a debt-driven society and the opportunities and challenges resulting from the growth of Eastern economies.

It takes in everything from welfare and the EU, to tax and infrastructure, and the authors admit they don’t have all the answers – but there appears to be a glaring omission of the role of science and engineering.

The words themselves receive just a handful of mentions outside a listing of current Government policies, and there is a complete absence of a narrative or vision which puts science and engineering at the heart of a rejuvenated and recharged UK economy.

Re-thinking the economy

CaSE is very clear that if we’re going to get growth, then research and development (R&D) have to be put front and centre in terms of political planning. We need to be training young people who want to discover and innovate, and attracting businesses by showcasing brilliant UK research and infrastructure. As well as a more sustainable economy, along the way we’d be incentivising cleaner energy, more advanced healthcare, faster communications, and all the other products of innovation and research.

We know that the UK can’t aim to be globally competitive in low-skills sectors, and we’ve seen that a over-reliance on financial services is ultimately unsustainable and costly – a point echoed by the Prime Minister just yesterday. Therefore science and engineering must be supported and nurtured. Sadly, we’re seeing cutbacks in investment just when the UK needs the opposite.

The Centre for Policy Studies describes itself as “one of Britain’s … most respected think tanks” – so it’s a shame that they fail to show that we cannot have a growth agenda which doesn’t include science and engineering.

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