We can’t predict the 21st century counterparts to quantum theory, the double helix or the computer, nor where the great innovators of the future will get their formative training and inspiration. But one thing seems certain: unless we get smarter, we’ll get poorer. Our relative standing will sink unless some of the best ideas of the 21st century germinate and are exploited here in the UK.
The pressures of an economic downturn, the pace of globalisation and the urgency of moving to a low-carbon economy, require policy makers to rethink established links between the creation of knowledge and long-term prosperity.
The Royal Society aims to enhance the contribution of science to innovation, and demonstrate how a vibrant research base creates value in many ways: through the supply of skilled individuals; through contributions to wealth creation and quality of life; or through simply discovering more about the world.
Innovation in services
In July 2009, we published our ‘Hidden wealth’ report, which analyses the role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in innovation across the UK’s service sectors. Based on an 18-month study, chaired by Professor David Rhind CBE FRS, the report highlights quite how deeply STEM is embedded in services, which make up around three quarters of the UK economy. To further bolster this position, the report made recommendations to the Research Councils, Technology Strategy Board, Financial Services Authority and Bank of England.
There have long been concerns that the UK education system may not provide the quantity and quality of skilled people needed for the workforce. In ‘A degree of concern?’ (2006) and ‘A higher degree of concern?’ (2008), the Royal Society looked in detail at the supply of, and demand for, graduate and post-graduate scientists and engineers. These reports identify how UK STEM higher education can stay fit for purpose over the next decade.
On an ongoing basis, we contribute actively to debates over higher education reform, research funding and the future of research assessment.
Our newly-established Corporate Network brings together senior figures from the worlds of business and science in an influential forum. Its members, including Shell, Pfizer and Elsevier, are encouraged to provide insights that can improve the business relevance of our policy projects.
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