Green shoots may fail to grow

22 April 2009

The Royal Society of Chemistry's President, Dave Garner, commenting on the Budget said today:

"The Government's aspirations to produce a hi-tech Britain that will lead our economic recovery from the present recession sound wonderful, but they lack substance.

"There is general agreement with the view often expressed by our Government that the UK must strive to be a leading science nation. However, this status depends upon sufficient investment in the UK's research base and ensuring that sufficient scientific talent emerges from our schools and colleges.
"A significant investment in fundamental research is essential if our economy is to develop new technologies and create new jobs and emerge from the present recession strong and internationally competitive. This investment is essential if the UK is to play a major role in the development of new and environmentally sustainable technologies that will provide the energy, materials, food, water, and healthcare required by modern society.

"In contrast to the UK, a significant investment in fundamental scientific research has been announced by President Obama and other countries are following his lead, Therefore, our brightest young researchers may initiate a 21st century 'brain drain' and leave the UK to secure funding for their science in the USA and elsewhere.

"Looking beyond the present situation, how will the UK produce the future generations of scientist and engineers that are required for our economy to be internationally competitive? 

"The RSC has been pressing the Government for investment in school laboratories for five years. One and a half billion pounds is required urgently to bring them up to an acceptable standard. Our research shows that the Government was due to take 25 years to achieve this but recent news that the school building programme has been delayed suggests that they may never achieve the goal.

"When he was Chancellor, the Prime Minister said that he would find 3000 extra specialist science teachers, yet only 25% of teachers who teach GCSE science have a chemistry specialism, and half of the teachers who enter the profession leave after just two years' service. There is no sign of his undertaking being met. 

"Today's Chancellor has missed an opportunity for a radical overhaul of the way that we produce highly-skilled people in this country; he should bear in mind the vital importance of supporting researchers and finding those essential teachers and building laboratories in which they can inspire the coming generation of scientists."

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