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Minister stresses importance of physics research for the UK economy

‘The new science and innovation agenda’ was the topic of lively discussion last night, Monday, November 26, at the Institute of Physics (IOP) Key Insight Business Briefing. Representatives from businesses across the UK attended the event to hear both the Minister of State for Science and Innovation and Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chairman of Qinetiq, set out their vision for science in the coming decades.

IOP used the opportunity to highlight their recent research which demonstrates the important contribution that the physics-based sector has been making to the UK economy since 2000.

The research shows that the physics based sector, defined as businesses using modern and advanced elements of physics in their business processes, contributes £70 billion to the UK’s economy and makes up 6.4 per cent of total UK economic output. When productivity in the physics realm is compared across all industries in the UK, the physics based sector comes over as a high performer - being almost twice as productive as the average.

The research stresses the importance of investment in Research and Development which has waned in recent years. From 2001-2004 there was a 14 per cent drop in total R&D investment by the physics sector. The government’s 2007 R&D scoreboard also suggests that UK firms are struggling to keep up with companies from competitor economies in this area.

Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, speaking at the event, said:

“Physics makes a key contribution to the UK economy through the one million jobs where the use of physics based technologies or expertise is critical to the existence of the sector, concentrated in 32,000 businesses.

“From an already strong position, the wider UK research base is improving – helped by rising funding. The science budget has more than doubled over the last decade. It will have tripled to £4bn by 2010-11.

“The Government is committed to ensuring Britain maintains its position as a world-class hub for scientific excellence. And we must be a world leader in transforming scientific and technological advances into successful new products and services.”

Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, said, “Politicians and business leaders alike are aware of the contribution that successfully applied physics can make to the whole UK economy. Increases in science funding and the political recognition of the importance of science to society are both causes for celebration but we are concerned to ensure that this greater emphasis on innovation should take place alongside a continuing commitment to well funded basic science research.”

Charlie Wallace | alfa
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