Innovation hotspots set to leave Britain out in the coldBritain is set to be sidelined within ten years unless it urgently scales up its collaboration with the rapidly growing innovation hotspots of China, South Korea and India according to a new report – The Atlas of Ideas – launched today at an international conference on science, innovation and globalisation, attended by leading UK and Asian scientists.
The warning comes from Demos, one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. In a series of four reports, The Atlas of Ideas warns that Britain must ‘wake up’ to developments in Asian innovation and promote global, collaborative approaches rather than a retreat into competing forms of ‘techno-nationalism.’
The Atlas of Ideas recommends the creation of a £100 million global research and development fund to take British capacity for international collaboration to a new level; a Darwin Scholarships programme to bring 200 Asian scientists a year to the UK; and the creation of public knowledge banks, along the lines of the Human Genome project, to provide an open and shared base for innovation.
The Atlas of Ideas details the dramatic growth in science and innovation across Asia:
- In December 2006, the OECD announced that China had moved ahead of Japan for the first time to become the world’s second largest investor in R&S after the US, spending £4.7 billion. South Korea’s spending increased 15% over 2005 to 3% of GDP, 75% of it coming from private industry. In India, R&D spending rose by 24% to £2.3 billion.
- India’s engineers are flooding into the world’s jobs markets at a rate of 350,000 a year, forecast to reach 1.4 million a year by 2015. Its talent pool comprises 14 million graduates, twice that of the US.
- In 2004/05 there were more than 70,000 students from South Korea, India and China at UK universities. Ten years ago that figure was just over 12,000
The Atlas of Ideas overview report warns that Britain faces tough strategic challenges and must act now, while China and India’s innovation capacity is still developing and not in ten years time when it will be too late. It says that Britain must respond by:
- Investing more in collaboration with the rising science powers of Asia, in order to meet the big global challenges confronting science, such as climate change and infectious disease;
- Attracting and retaining links with the best scientific talent to ensure that the UK stays at the centre of global innovation networks;
- Investing more in tracking developments in Asian science, for example by boosting the Foreign Office’s network of science and innovation advisers.
The report’s co-author, Charles Leadbeater, said:
“Britain has a choice. Either we become a marginal science and innovation player in world terms just as we have in the car industry, or we can take our lead from the City of London and become a global hub for cosmopolitan innovation. That means choosing our areas of specialisation, collaborating with others and placing ourselves at the centre of knowledge and innovation networks.”
Co-author, James Wilsdon, added:
“Innovation is not a zero sum game. More in China or India doesn’t mean less in Europe. But we need a more distinctive story about Britain’s strengths. China is the world’s fastest-growing economy. The US is the home of high-tech and Hollywood. What’s our one-line pitch to the world? We think Britain should promote itself as a cosmopolitan centre: open and willing to support the best ideas and the most innovative talent from across the world.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Atlas of Ideas reports will be launched at a major international conference on science, innovation and globalisation, taking place on 17 and 18 January at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) in Savoy Place, London. UK speakers include: Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser; Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society; Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister for Science and Innovation; and Boris Johnson MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education. Senior figures from Chinese, Indian and Korean science will also attend, including: Chunli Bai, Vice-President, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Zhang Xian’en, Director General of Basic Research, Ministry of Science and Technology, China; R A Mashelkar, Director General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, India; and Kwan Rim, Chairman, Samsung Advanced Institute for Technology.
Three reports accompany the Atlas of Ideas overview, looking in detail at the rise of Asia’s innovation ‘hotspots’. They conclude that:
China is mobilising massive resources for innovation funded by rapid economic growth. Beijing’s university district produces as many engineers as all of Western Europe and the government is cultivating high-technology champions. If its innovation elite connects with the vast domestic economy it could pose a profound challenge to the international innovation order.
India’s strength is in its democracy ensuring the freedom exists to think, debate and innovate. It has a young, growing and increasingly well-educated population. Software and pharmaceuticals provide its high-tech role models and its elite trainees are second to none. By mastering outsourced innovation, it will change big companies from within.
South Korea has strong government support that has created a world-class information structure. Its largest firms, such as Samsung, are investing heavily in R&D with global ambitions and its highly educated and connected population is open to new technologies. Innovation is central to South Korea’s survival. It will be a technically adept fast follower.
The Atlas of Ideas project was led by Demos with support from a consortium of partners, including: Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Office of Science and Innovation; UK Trade and Investment; British Council; Scottish Enterprise; Microsoft Research; Vodafone; the Institution of Engineering and Technology; South East of England Development Agency; East of England Development Agency; Universities UK; Medical Research Council; Irish Management Institute; and Claydon Gescher Associates.
Interviews are also available by arrangement on the day of the launch on 17 January at The Atlas of ideas: Mapping the new geography of science Demos international conference on science, innovation and globalisation, at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), Savoy Place, London.
Demos is the think tank for everyday democracy, the idea that all people should have greater influence over factors that affect them and their communities (www.demos.co.uk)