Unlocking the future


14 December 2010

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, says in a leading article "Unlocking the Future" that it is time for the UK to embrace the limitless potential of the chemical sciences, but warns that this will require a more enriching educational system that stimulates imagination, creativity and a preparedness to ask tough questions.

In the very first issue of the new publication Public Service Review: UK Science & Technology, he argues from evidence-based sources that the chemicals industry and chemistry-using sectors contribute 21% of the UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports over 6 million jobs. 

But UK investment in R&D as a proportion of GDP is less than half that of Japan, which itself in absolute terms of annual spending has already been caught up by China. By next year, this emerging economy, which has become the manufacturing centre of the world, will also be the source of more published scientific papers in chemistry than any other country.

How UK positions itself in the future, to remain innovative and competitive, will depend crucially on how it prepares youngsters for this challenge. He asserts, citing the findings of government-funded bodies, that the unintended consequence of weak regulation and market-driven competition between examining boards has been to compromise the country's future. He concludes that this has to change - with nothing less than the quality of learning from primary to tertiary education unequivocally reassessed.

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