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The fourth bottleneck is perhaps the most pervasive and relevant to this debate: scientific literacy. There may be ever fewer individuals who are like one old lady who apparently said she would never eat tomatoes with genes in them, but if we are to make the most of the 21st century, then science, engineering and technology are still not where they need to be—at the heart of society, and in the hearts and minds of the next generation.

Cultural shifts cannot be realised overnight, but a scheme that could well give such a nebulous idea some substance comes from bringing together three very different, seemingly unrelated facts. First, the general public like attending science-based events where they can interact and challenge scientists speaking in general lectures, debates or panels. At the Royal Institution we have an audience of 200-strong on average up to three times a week throughout the year. Secondly, on most weekends and many weekday evenings, the lecture theatres of most universities lie empty and unused. Thirdly, many academic scientists who are mid-career in lectureships often feel that they are on a treadmill of recycling the same old courses, the endless audits and—even more endless and demoralising—the writing of grant applications, with a success rate of about 10 per cent to 15 per cent. How can they become

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reinvigorated to persist with cutting-edge research? How can they act as role models for their students? And how might they widen their general skills?

The answer could lie in drawing together these three disparate strands. Imagine a scenario where every weekend and perhaps during the week, your local university opened its doors to science events for the public. The science faculty who spent time running these events would gain new and exciting experiences, new skills and insights, while being paid in teaching remission or, indeed, overtime. In turn, the funds could come from a socially-sensitive box office fee—after all, it should be and could be the equivalent of a good night out at the cinema—plus subsidy from the appropriate government departments. I gather that a beacon scheme that is being developed might meet some of these needs.

Everyone would win: the rank and file science academic would gain skills for talking to the media and, indeed, for gaining more of a “wood” rather than “trees” perspective of their subject. The universities would gain by having more motivated staff and the buy-in and support of their local community. The general public would gain by having an immediate and interactive route to scientific literacy. The Government would gain by having a society eager and informed enough to make the most of what science, engineering and technology have to offer.

While a “change in culture” is an easy and frequently used phrase, it is hard to define operationally, let alone realise. But what is certain is that such changes are harder still without resources. Surely relatively modest sums of money invested in, for example, initiatives for women scientists and the democratisation of science for the public within their local communities, would give disproportionately valuable returns for making the most of science, engineering and technology in the 21st century.

2.44 pm

Lord Bhattacharyya: My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Haskel for leading this debate with the knowledge and precision that is his hallmark. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, about funding start-ups.

I begin by declaring an interest: as director of Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick, I have long believed that science and technology are central to almost every issue we face as a nation. Over the past decade, science and technology issues have become frontline news, and academic research has increased in prestige. At the same time, the increase in higher education funding has meant expansion, a growth visible in the new buildings we see on every university campus.

Of course, issues remain, and are high profile. It is usually difficulties, not successes, which command immediate attention. Despite this, I think most of us will agree that the past decade has been, if not a golden age, then at least an era of significant silver.

This increased funding, as well as our growing understanding of the world, means there is hardly any aspect of our national life where scientific research is not making a vital contribution. I noticed that many

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noble Lords chose to speak in the debate on creative industries earlier today. It occurs to me that without the contribution of science and technology, British creative industry would be very limited indeed. From the printing press to wireless technology, from cinema to videogames, from television to broadband, the framework of scientific and technological progress has shaped the growth of creativity industries. Indeed, the Digital Britain report compares the creation of broadband infrastructure with electrification in the Edwardian age in its power to transform. This manifests itself in many ways. Last week, Scottish scientists announced that they have been able to recreate digitally, then build, a lost musical instrument, the lituus.

So new digital technology means a seismic shift in many industries, from internet radio to classical music. In the same way, scientific research is reshaping many of our most pressing social problems. After all, without the pioneering work of Crick, Watson and Sir Alec Jeffreys, the current debate over DNA fingerprinting would not be possible.

Science is also the key to climate change. A fortnight ago, the new American energy secretary, Steven Chu, suggested we paint our roofs white to reflect sunlight and reduce demand for air-conditioning. He proposed this because research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that changing the colour of 100 square metres of roof could offset 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. Yet some argue that focusing on adaptive technologies will distract people from the need to reduce their carbon footprint. This highlights one of the problems with our attitude to science: a lack of cultural belief in the power of technology to transform lives.

As the Times said on Tuesday, this year is the 50th anniversary of CP Snow's famous “Two Cultures” lecture. Today we have a choice between “two attitudes” to science. The first holds that science and technology can somehow be reserved for a caste of qualified researchers, whose ideas emerge as bolts from the blue for the rest of society. This attitude isolates hard science from economics, and scientific research from the real world. It can be a comfortable arrangement. Scientists receive a small tithe of public expenditure, stability, and a certain status. In return, they are expected to produce research their peers regard as useful, while the wider population waits hopefully for scientific solutions. I believe that this attitude creates two castes—those who do science and those who have science done to them. This might explain why, despite outstanding research being done in our universities, only 1 per cent of British businesses say that universities are of high importance to them as a source of innovation.

Of course, companies which fully engage in research and development can gain great success. My noble friend the Minister is certainly aware of the enormous value that innovative research can give to a business—after all, he has proven its importance himself. The Government have made great efforts in this direction, establishing the Technology Strategy Board and publishing the innovation White Paper. The research councils, especially the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, now include the economic impact of research when evaluating projects. Despite this progress, the sharing of innovation and success between academia and industry

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is too often the exception when it needs to be the rule. To change this, we must embrace a new attitude of constant engagement between science and society, as the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, mentioned. We must encourage scientists to focus on our shared challenges and translate their research into reality.

At the same time, we must give independent researchers the freedom to innovate, challenge and experiment. In other words, we choose where the goal posts are placed, but free up the path to goal. If you ask a dozen scientists to reduce carbon emissions, you will get a dozen research proposals. Perhaps half of them will work. The trouble is, as John Wanamaker famously said about advertising, you do not know which half. The same is true of spin-off companies. Not all innovators will succeed; there can be no guarantee of success. Risk is at the very core of innovative research. Innovation always involves venturing into the unknown. We must develop an attitude of embracing risk by supporting innovation anywhere it can be found—in businesses, universities, corporate research laboratories or the work of a young entrepreneur.

The innovation White Paper set out some useful steps for achieving this. As it suggests, we should offer an “innovation lottery”, so that it is easier for companies to get funding for small-scale research with academic partners. We also need a cultural change, so that knowledge transfer is central to academic life. We must bring manufacturers, researchers and customers together, so that they can share ideas to improve products, from batteries to plastic electronics.

Next, we should remove the hurdles, the bureaucracy and the form-filling that can blight new research projects. The noble Lord, Lord May, who is not with us today, addressed this recently in his role as president-elect of the British Science Association. The noble Lord pointed out that the last Research Assessment Exercise would have prevented Crick and Watson getting shared credit for their research. This type of box-ticking, while well intentioned, is anathema to innovation. One of the issues with the RAE is that the evaluation between economic impact and perceived research excellence is tilted towards the latter and not balanced. This is right for “blue sky” research subjects, but in applied sciences, gaining substantial economic benefit is a key to success and we need to be much bolder. These barriers to innovation typify much of the Research Assessment Exercise. That must change.

However, we must go further than lotteries or replacing the RAE. We need a transformation of our attitude to science and society. We should double, treble or even quadruple the money available to fund applied science projects such as technology demonstrators, incubators and low-carbon research. The Technology Strategy Board has a budget of £1 billion for the next three years for all applied research. To make a real contribution, we should invest at least £1 billion each year.

Naturally, business must play its part in bringing science to the heart of society. Let me be blunt: if British companies do not invest in exciting new technologies and products, companies in other countries will. Sir James Black’s work on Beta blockers made a major contribution to both our physical and economic

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health because we had both a strong pharmaceutical industry and, in the NHS, a ready market for its products.

Yet the equally innovative work of George Gray and Cyril Hilsum, the pioneers of liquid crystal displays, found a market not in Britain but in the companies of the Far East that saw the market value of their work. I can speak from personal experience. When I served as a young apprentice at Lucas Industries, the company was a global leader. Yet a lack of investment in innovation meant Lucas was very quickly overtaken by emerging companies from Germany and Japan. They are now global giants, while Lucas no longer exists.

The Government have increased the research budget enormously, yet we have not seen British competitiveness improve as a result. That is why we must not let research breakthroughs from British universities be transferred from the laboratory to the wider world by others. We must help innovative companies and researchers develop scientific and economic goals together and back their efforts to take their successes to the marketplace.

The challenge that our society faces, from climate change to healthcare, are too great to be ignored by scientists, while the progress that scientists are making, from low-carbon cars to virtual surgery, is too useful to be ignored by society. To meet our social challenges and help our economy grow, we must bring science and society together.

2.56 pm

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for his thoughtful and comprehensive review and introduction to this subject. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, who speaks with great authority about the Midlands, an area which was, is and will remain of major manufacturing importance.

Most of my remarks will be Cambridge-oriented, and I declare many prejudices in that respect. Sixty years ago, I was coming to the end of my first year as an undergraduate in the engineering faculty at Cambridge. I had always wished to be an engineer, but very quickly realised that I was not competent enough, as did my first employer. However, it was the most marvellous discipline in which to be educated and an invaluable training for life, for which I remain eternally grateful. Indeed, it stood me in good stead when, many years later, in a very long business career—mostly overseas—I became for eight years a non-executive director of a group of engineering companies. Later still, I had the honour to succeed the noble Baroness, Lady Platt of Writtle, as honorary president of the Cambridge University Engineering Association. In this respect, my noble friend Lady Greenfield can take some comfort, as the next director of the engineering faculty in Cambridge is no less than a distinguished scientific lady.

My links with Cambridge continue, as my daughter’s eldest son has just completed his second year as an undergraduate in the engineering faculty. I therefore remain very closely connected and can see how radically things are changing since my days there. And of course in this debate, we shall listen with great pleasure to my

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noble friend Lord Rees of Ludlow, a most distinguished scientist and, I am glad to say, master of my former college.

The UK’s track record is one of having been very good at inventions such as TV, radar and jet propulsion—the list is endless—but less good at exploitation and commercialisation of these developments. However, this has now changed, and Cambridge University, among others, has devised an excellent system for it. Among many incredible developments—many during the time that my noble friend Lord Broers was at Cambridge—there has been, for instance, the Institute of Manufacturing within the engineering faculty. I am reliably informed that there are no fewer than 1,800 small industries within 10 miles of the centre of Cambridge. That is major progress and demonstrates what can happen as a result of scientific and engineering developments.

What are the obvious areas of opportunity that will assist with our national economic recovery? There are many, but I shall mention just a few. They include civil infrastructure—in which we are world-leading consultants—energy efficiency, as has been mentioned already in this debate, security and materials. This last item will be crucial in the evolution of nuclear fusion. In that case, the science has been solved at Culham, but is now being developed further at the large international experimental plant, ITER, in southern France. The problem has moved from a scientific one to an engineering one—in other words, to find new materials that will withstand the very high temperatures within the combustion chamber and in the electromagnets that are necessary. It is not an easy task, but it is essential to get it right and find the solution if we are to solve our energy problems in the long-term future.

It is clear that science and engineering are taken quite seriously in this Parliament, particularly within the various all-party groups on this subject, such as the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which has been ably chaired to date by Doug Naysmith in another place and has now been taken over by Ian Taylor. All those initiatives, like the college of science committee and the chemistry society committee, are extremely valuable. It is also extremely encouraging that the debate will be answered by the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, who is, I am glad to say, a nuclear fusion supporter and the only engineer in the Government. I have always thought that government would be improved with more engineers trained to produce solutions that work, which is their motivation, and fewer economists, but that is a prejudice which I shall no doubt continue to hold as things develop in future. I am glad that I am now to be followed by my friend—although not my noble friend—the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, with whom I have discussed engineering on many occasions.

3.01 pm

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am very grateful for those kind words. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, and I have debated for many years on a variety of subjects but this, I believe, is the first time we have ever been on the same side. I am very glad of it; it might happen again—who can tell?



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I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Haskel raised this subject, because engineering has been my life and is not really debated in this House or the other place nearly often enough. It is interesting to note that the earlier debate today on the contribution of the creative industries drew a full house in this Chamber, whereas the discussion of engineering is listened to by only a select few. That is the norm, and it is what I am going to talk about. First, I declare my interest as a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and an honorary fellow of a variety of other institutions of the same kind. I spent more than 20 years in consulting engineering as an engineering designer, followed by 25 or so years as an engineering journalist—something in which I still dabble in a small way. I believe that my monthly column in the Highways magazine has four readers, one of whom is the editor. I do not know who the other three are.

I want to talk not just about the contribution that science and engineering make to the United Kingdom, which has been well rehearsed by other noble Lords, but about whether that contribution is properly recognised and, if not, what, if anything, can be done to remedy that. We know that generally speaking, with the construction industry rather than engineering as a whole, when a notable building such as the Millennium Dome is discussed in the press, its design is attributed to the architect—in this case, my noble friend Lord Rogers. There is a sense in which the architect is entitled to some recognition for the Dome, which is not a dome at all, of course. Why it has been called a dome, I do not know, as it actually looks like a saucer turned upside down. It is really a big top, such as Bertram Mills used to have, or a tent or marquee. However, let us call it a dome, as that is what the press likes to call it, although engineers prefer to describe it differently. The real designers of the Dome were not the architects, however much they put into it, but Buro Happold. It is a complete engineering structure.

There are many more such examples. The lead designer of the Millennium Bridge, which wobbles, was not the noble Lord, Lord Foster, but Arup. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, came forward with a certain amount of verve on the opening day, raising his arms as he does, but that when it started to wobble he ran for his life and said that this was really a matter for Arup—which was true. There is also the Pompidou Centre, which was really designed by Ted Happold and Peter Rice, again of Arup, which again invited Richard Rogers and Piano to come in as architects to help to complete the building. Just down the road is Waterloo Bridge, which, in every guidebook, is described as having been designed by that very eminent architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was actually employed by the engineers Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, with which I spent 13 happy years when I was younger, although not under Waterloo Bridge. It is interesting that people think of Waterloo Bridge as a kind of arch structure when it consists of two horizontal reinforced concrete box girders, screened by a kind of fa├žade, which is presumably the architect’s work. During the war a temporary handrail was put on the bridge and the official history of Rendel, Palmer and Tritton says:



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“The elegance of the free flowing clean design was preserved when it was decided to leave in place the simple tubular handrail, erected as a temporary wartime economy, in place of the ornate railing of the original design and also to omit the arches over the approaches as earlier proposed by Sir Giles”.

The architect was in that case luckily unable to carry out his plans.

What could be done to improve recognition in the press, the media as a whole and in this Parliament? There is a remedy at hand: in 1988, Parliament passed the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which brought into our law a continental notion called the moral right—that is, to be recognised as the designer or author of a piece of work. In the case of a book, it is quite simple: the author puts a paragraph in the flyleaf saying that he asserts the right to be regarded as the author of the book.

When the Bill came before this House in 1987, the moral right was extended beyond books, musical composition and so on to include architecture and structural design. The Bill said that the architect had the right to assert his moral right to be regarded as the designer. Efforts were made in the House to change that part of the Bill so that it said “architect or engineer”. While the idea was welcomed on the government side, it somehow seemed inappropriate to put the word “engineer” into the Bill. So, instead, Whitehall in its wisdom deleted the word “architect” and inserted the word “author”. In later debates during the passage of the Bill, “author” was defined as being either the architect or the engineer, although that never got on to the face of the Bill; had it done, a great deal of confusion would have been avoided.

It is up to engineers to assert their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. They have to do this apparently in writing. That is where it becomes a little difficult again because it is hard to know who to write to. Obviously you write to the owner of the building, whoever that happens to be. You may, like Martin Luther, nail a letter to the door of some place or another and assert your right there, or put a letter around a lamp post the way that planning authorities do, and assert your right in that way. I would like the Minister to explain the mechanics by which that should be done.

I have one last word. Some years ago, I was at an event in the Great Hall of the British Museum, which is ascribed to Norman Foster once again. His bit is very good, but the bit of the Great Hall that is of real interest is the roof, which is a very complicated structure, designed once again by Buro Happold of Bath. I noticed that the names of Foster and Spencer De Grey, one of his partners who did the principal design of that building, were then inscribed on the wall of the Great Hall. I suggested to the director that it would be a good idea if the name of Buro Happold were added. He agreed that this was a very good idea and then retired the following day.

I then spent some considerable effort, with the agreement of Buro Happold, Norman Foster and Spencer De Grey, to get that name added to the inscription on the wall. Unfortunately, the members of staff of the British Museum kept retiring. I am happy

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to say that last year the name of Buro Happold was added to the Great Hall, as it should have been originally. It only took seven years to get it done. I sincerely hope that future engineers can achieve such events more rapidly than I was able to do.

3.13 pm

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, other noble Lords have declared interests of various degrees of science and engineering distinction. My only declaration is that I happen to be the president of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, to which reference has very kindly been made, and chairman of the Foundation for Science and Technology. As I did no science at school or university at all, I have to describe these offices as wholly ornamental.


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