Thursday, February 12, 2015

To win the lottery... you have to buy a ticket

Here's a question I hear quite often.

"Why should we waste UK taxpayer money on academic research for things that we can't use or sell?"

It sounds like one of those "Daily Mail", UKIP, common sense, ordinary bloke holding a pint kind of questions that everyone nods sagely to without really being invested in finding a good answer; a bit like "would we have more jobs if we had less immigrants?" Unfortunately reality isn't as simple as most people would like it to be; the answer to almost every question ever asked is "it depends"..

Here's a worrying statistic:

The amount (per head of population) that we spend on science and technology research and development in this country has gone from £89 in 2010 down to £75 in 2015 (adjusted for inflation) it has steadily declined for the last 4 years. In contrast China has tripled it's equivalent budget since 1995, and will invest roughly 16 times more than the UK this year ($163Bn vs. $10Bn). To put the £10Bn number in perspective, people in the UK will spend roughly $7Bn on their pets this year.

Here's a great statistic:

The critical question for me is, will we continue to see statistics like the second one unless we fix the decline suggested by the first?

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