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The legacy from the Olympics in 2012 will be not just in sport but in the construction, engineering and scientific breakthroughs that hosting such a prestigious and ambitious event in the UK will bring for us all. In addition, the Government’s recent announcement of ongoing support for a low-carbon economy will draw on all the energy expertise that science and engineering can provide. We have a real opportunity to use what we already know to ensure that we gain the knowledge that we will need to meet the changes and challenges of the future. We must ensure that Britain can capitalise on these opportunities and continue to build on its scientific and engineering capability.

In conclusion, we must ensure that every employee can develop their full potential, as we need a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, particularly to support advanced manufacturing, life sciences and green and emerging technologies. We can give ourselves the best possible future by keeping our focus on the importance of science and engineering skills across the workforce.

3.45 pm

Lord Crisp: My Lords, although I suspect that a debate with this title would be important at any time, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, on his timing, because there is, as many noble Lords have said, a great sense of urgency about the subject. Part of the reason for that is the point which he himself made about this being a time of recession. Those who succeed in such times are those who can look beyond the recession and identify what is needed, innovate and be ready for it. In many cases that will be the scientists and technologists.

As many noble Lords also said, there is also the crisis of climate change, where again we need technological innovations. We have some major issues to address on how to fund and implement those innovations. However, I want to talk about medical science, and I shall focus on putting research into practice and actually ensuring that things happen for patients and for the health of the population. We have a great and illustrious history in this area. Many great scientists and clinical scientists have enhanced not only the health of the UK but our position in the world.

Perhaps I may mention just one individual: the late Professor Philip Poole-Wilson of the National Heart and Lung Institute, whose memorial service is being held as we speak, where I would have been now were I not here. Philip exemplified three things that are important to us in this debate. He was a great cardiologist, but he was also a great clinician, great researcher and great teacher. In this field, we often need those three sets of qualities together. We have an excellent environment in which we can bring together the clinical, the research and the teaching: the National Health Service—in which I declare my interest as a former chief executive—which is an excellent environment for learning and research. The noble Lord, Lord Drayson, has recognised that and, as I understand it, one of the issues in his current work is to ensure that we draw sufficient research and scientific development from our extraordinary integrated health service to enable us to put it into practice and understand it in practice.

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I pay tribute to the recent developments in the Department of Health and the NHS in making sure that research is much better co-ordinated. Under the leadership of Dame Sally Davies, we have the Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research, which is making sure that there is more effective translation of health research into health and economic benefits for the UK. It is very important work that could be taken much further. I was interested to hear that, from his new Office of Life Sciences, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, will be producing a life sciences blueprint in July. It will be interesting to hear how he wants to take that further forward.

We know that health research has an economic benefit for the country. An interesting study was done a year or so ago, entitled What’s it Worth?, which estimated the economic benefits of medical research in the UK. It made some broad estimates in a number of areas, but in the one that it considered in some detail, cardiovascular disease, it estimated that there was a 9 per cent rate of return annually on the research. That is a significant rate of return and one that it is important that we understand when talking about the importance of medical research.

I want to draw attention to three points. One comes directly from that area of research. Anyone who has read that study—I have, and I had better declare another interest as a trustee of RAND Europe, which was one of the authors of the study—can see how difficult it was to evaluate the impact of medical research, because there are so many confounding factors and so many ways of measuring. I hope that in the new Office of Life Sciences, attention will be paid to how we effectively evaluate the impact of medical research—not just the quality of the medical research itself but its impact on real life. That will be an important way to help inform policy for the future. I ask the Minister to comment on that.

The second point on which I ask the Minister to comment, and to tell us whether the life sciences blueprint will refer to it, concerns the spread of practice once research has demonstrated what works. We often talk about getting things from the laboratory to the bedside. The study to which I just referred stated that in cardiovascular disease it took 17 years on average to get things from research to the bedside. I am interested in the time that it takes not just to get things from the laboratory to the bedside but from one bedside to every bedside, making sure that it is normal practice everywhere. I suspect that we do not pay very much attention to that. Part of that is about how we spread best practice, and part of it is knowledge transfer. That may be a particular issue for medical sciences, but I suspect that it is true elsewhere. There was a famous article in the Lancet that said that if we applied all the knowledge that we have today, we would have more impact than any medical breakthrough that we may be likely to have in the next 10 years. I suspect that that may be true elsewhere and that we may not pay enough attention to that latter bit—getting it from one bedside to every bedside.

It is not just about spreading good practice. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, made a point about the social sciences and natural sciences interface. We know

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that there is resistance to the findings of science among the population in all kinds of ways. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, made the point—his words were very interesting—that in the great MMR controversy, people were judging us on our values and the reasons for which we were making the change. They were making judgments about the people who were saying, “You should have this vaccine”, and not making a scientific judgment. That is true in all kinds of different areas of medicine.

We know that about 30 per cent of drugs do not get taken by the patients for whom they are prescribed. That seems to be universal in developed countries. The social sciences can help us to understand how to get the products of natural sciences into action so that we can get better evaluation and results for the population.

My second question for the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, is how he sees the interaction between the natural and the social sciences. How important does he see that in the life sciences, particularly the question of how to spread practice from one bedside to every bedside?

My third point is again health-related but may have other relevance. Anyone who has had responsibility for managing health services will know that there is an ultimate tension between prevention and treatment. We often get dragged down to the far end of treatment when we want to be spending a bit more resource on prevention. There are issues here for the direction of science in medical research. I think particularly of the pharmaceutical industry. To what extent are we expending great effort on developing drugs for the latter stages of treatment and less attention to the biological markers of diagnosis? For example, we know that if we can catch cancer early and treat it early, we have a much better chance of the patient surviving and that it is a much cheaper option, whereas if you catch it later it is much more expensive and the patient has much less chance. We should of course try to prevent cancer, but there is also an argument for improving the way in which we handle diagnosis. Does the Minister feel that there is room for greater emphasis on what Sir Bill Castell described as early health as opposed to the treatment of late disease? Should that be where we should be thinking about going in medical research? More emphasis on that would not, of course, prevent the emphasis on late disease.

3.55 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for introducing this interesting and timely debate. It is timely because in the current recession we are looking at ways in which we may emerge from it, and we all agree that we need to look at rebalancing the economy and shifting towards industries and services that have a considerable science and technology content and could play a bigger role. I think that the creative arts and heritage industries will also play a substantial part in our recovery, but that does not mean that science and technology do not play a part in those industries. If one looks at computer games and animation one recognises that digital technology, which did not exist 20 years ago, and the creative and media industries have come together there.

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An area in which I have a particular interest because I chaired a sub-committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology is science and heritage. Looking at how we can engage people in the role of science and technology, I was fascinated by the degree to which the general public are fascinated by, for example, how the Madonna of the Pinks in the National Gallery was identified as the original by chemistry that identified the paints that were used at the time. When galleries expose conservation techniques to the general public, they find that the general public are interested in them. It is a means of breaking down barriers and the clash of cultures to which the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, referred.

On the whole, we in Britain feel that we punch above our weight in science and technology, which a number of speakers mentioned. We say time and time again that we have an extraordinarily good science base, although we have some reservations about how far we manage to translate it into technology. The Government must be congratulated on the degree to which they have given priority to science and technology over the past 12 years. If we look at it in terms of how much money has gone into the research base, it has increased in real terms from £2.4 billion to £5.9 billion; that is, it has more than doubled over the past 12 years. However, the other part of public sector R&D, spending on government departments, has remained more or less static. While business R&D has increased from £11.7 billion to £13.4 billion, as a proportion of GDP overall it has gone down from 1.25 per cent of GDP to 1.08 per cent of GDP. The UK as a whole has set its target at 2.5 per cent.

The noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, mentioned the role of business R&D, which is real and worrying. He said that when he started as an apprentice with Lucas there were two German firms allied to the work he was doing and that the two German firms have gone on to become multinationals, whereas Lucas has disappeared from the scene. That is too often the story in relation to British companies. One of the features of business R&D in the UK is the real role that foreign companies play. In terms of R&D as a whole, it is very disappointing that, having set the target of 2.5 per cent, in 2006 we were down to 1.78 per cent of GDP. In Japan, it was 3.4 per cent; in the US, it was 2.66 per cent; and in Germany, it was 2.54 per cent. As a number of noble Lords have mentioned, President Obama has pledged a doubling of public investment in R&D with an injection of $21 billion, which is a huge amount of money. In business, we have no room for complacency. It is vital that we still move forward.

It is worth mentioning that, although we have 4 per cent of the population of the world, we have 8 per cent of scientific publications and 12 per cent of highly cited publications. In that sense, we produce good science. But we have an ageing population of scientists and very real worries about the number of young people coming forward to study science in our universities. In the past five years, 80 university science departments, mainly in physics and chemistry, have closed. These statistics are very worrying.

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What are the current proposals? The Government have pledged to continue their investment in science and technology to 2014, carrying through their 10-year investment plan. The Budget promised a further allocation of £750 million into a strategic investment plan to support advanced industrial projects in growth areas. The research councils have been asked to reallocate £106 million of their funding into those same growth areas.

Two interesting strands of thought are developing. In February, the Secretary of State, Mr Denham, at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said that,

That is a very high rate of return, which certainly is worth pursuing.

I am somewhat disturbed by the degree to which the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, has suggested that we should now perhaps concentrate on areas where the UK is likely to be number one or number two in 20 years’ time and that there should be a concentration of resources into a number of growth areas. That has been linked with the new industrial strategy that is emerging from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. The strategy talks about ensuring that British science and technology are at the heart of the revolutions in industrial production that we defined in the 20th century, but looking to the future, the strategy identifies the need to pay particular attention to those technological changes that are shaping industries and highlight several sectors, such as low-carbon technologies, digital media, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

What does all this mean? There is talk of a greater concentration of resources. Are we seeking to pick the winner? The Minister indicates that no, we are not. This takes me back to the 1970s and 1980s when I worked in the National Economic Development Office. We firmly denied that we were picking the winners but were scenario-planning and looking at other forms of moving forward. I look back also to the 1990s and the work I did with the Science Policy Research Unit on the UK Foresight programme. How much is the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, using the Foresight unit in his department and the Horizon Scanning Centre to look at areas where there is growth potential? We have established these Foresight facilities and they are very important.

I end on a note of warning about trying to identify where we are going to be in 20 years’ time. In the early 1970s, the late Lord Rothschild, who led the job of looking at funding for science and technology, considered the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. In those days it had a budget of around £20 million.

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He asked why all that money was being spent on advanced molecular biological research and where it would take us. But it was the eve of the revolution in biotechnology and all that has stemmed from it. It is extremely dangerous not to invest in a broad science base from which will come a high rate of return and to identify too narrowly from where the benefits may come.

4.06 pm

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, it has been a privilege to listen to and learn from noble Lords who have spoken today. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for giving us the opportunity to hold this debate, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that his timing is excellent. There is no argument about the important role that science, technology and engineering increasingly will play in the future of our country. These subjects have a central role in promoting innovation and are the key catalysts for productivity growth and competitiveness. New ideas drive enterprise, create new products and markets, and improve efficiency. They deliver benefits to businesses, their customers and society as a whole. Scientific and technological advances also drive improvements in quality of life, particularly through services such as healthcare and security, through environmental protection and energy saving, as well as many other areas already mentioned by noble Lords.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, have spoken about the creation of a culture in our wider society that is more receptive to science and engineering. My noble friend Lord Jenkin and the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, spoke in particular about the importance of public communication. A moment ago, I mentioned productivity and competitiveness in the same breath because we cannot have the latter without the former. Redesign of the nuts and bolts of an industry or organisation can be as important as innovation. Blue-sky thinking and research need to go hand in hand with improved efficiency of processes.

Despite the importance of science, technology and engineering, we face a number of deficiencies, notably in the realms of education. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, rightly said that education is where it all starts. For example, there is a lack of skilled teachers which the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK has described as “severe”. In 2006, 26 per cent of state secondary schools had no physics specialist and 12 per cent no chemistry specialist. Furthermore, the Government’s science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014 claims that they would continually improve the number of pupils gaining an A*- C grade in at least two science GSCEs. Yet only yesterday it was reported that there are whole areas of England where not a single child has the opportunity to sit separate science GSCEs.

Pupils in some of the poorest areas, who might in better circumstances be capable, are being denied access to top careers in engineering and medical research while, on the other hand, our brightest 16 year-olds are not being stretched. Without a good understanding of science subjects at 16, it is almost impossible for pupils to get top marks in these subjects at A-level and

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therefore progress to a science degree at a top university. There is a worrying deficiency in the numbers of science, technology, engineering and maths students. Alarmingly, in the United Kingdom only 8 per cent of graduates are engineering graduates compared, for example, to more than 30 per cent in China.

The Government proposed to reform education, training and apprenticeships for young people and adults and to provide new powers to strengthen children’s trusts, improve standards in schools and increase confidence in qualifications. We have had no trouble in supporting such ambitions. The noble Baroness, Lady Wall of New Barnet, among others, spoke of the need to enthuse young people. It is important, too, that the Government have identified that investment needs to be made to encourage the development of skills.

However, as feed-back from all sides of the House confirmed on Tuesday at its Second Reading, the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill has all the hallmarks of a wasted opportunity. In particular, the statutory entitlement to an apprenticeship proposed in the Bill is meaningless without the mechanisms and the funds to implement it. We will propose a number of key amendments to try to improve the Bill substantially.

On investment more generally, the strategic investment fund of £750 million announced in the Budget, intended to support valuable industrial projects of strategic importance, is, despite disappointment following rumours that it was to have involved a larger sum, welcome. However, there has been considerable vagueness about the details and the real availability of funds, prompting fears that it is a political slush fund for the run up to the general election, to be allocated to perceived winners in fashionable areas of industry and in key marginal seats. We look to the Minister to show why such fears are unfounded. While on the subject of funding, perhaps he could also update us on indications that the Science and Technology Facilities Council is to suffer cuts and delays.

An effective system of intellectual property laws is a key requirement to underpin the knowledge economy and our creative industries. The 2006 Gowers review of the UK’s IP regime identified a number of areas where improvements were needed. So far, as I understand it, only about half of its recommendations have been implemented. I would be grateful if the Minister will tell the House when the rest will. On the subject of IP, I join my noble friend Lord Freeman in congratulating and thanking the British Library on what it is doing in this area.

As my noble friend Lady Thatcher once put it,

“Science and the pursuit of knowledge are given high priority by successful countries, not because they are a luxury ... but because experience has taught us that knowledge and its effective use are vital to national prosperity”.

A chemist herself, she of course understood the vital importance of science.

From 1999 to 2006, I jointly owned and ran a technology business. Indeed, I am still a substantial shareholder in the technology company to which we sold it. Such businesses need highly qualified people and so I have a keen appreciation of the importance of

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STEM skills to our future economy. In Britain, we are lucky indeed—the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and my noble friend Lord Freeman referred to this—to have so many scientific institutions of international standing, several of which have been represented today by your Lordships, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow. We on these Benches much appreciate the value of the advice of your Lordships and of those institutions.

Indeed, I particularly welcome ideas as to how, for example, we can improve the retention in this country for commercial development, with the resultant jobs and tax revenues, of more of the, frankly, brilliant ideas which come out of our research, particularly from our great universities. My noble friend Lord Freeman focused on this and gave some helpful ideas. As he said, the issues go wider than finance. As the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, said, these ideas and innovations are of high quality yet, currently, too often go overseas for commercial development. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, also spoke of this.

If we are to respond successfully to the challenges we face, an approach based on sound science is vital. In subjects such as genetics, nanotechnology and synthetic biology, where research is moving fast, opportunities are opening up for us. Some of these, of course, come with ethical issues, but these need to be addressed with sound evidence.

I referred earlier to the credentials of my noble friend Lady Thatcher. Conservatives have a long history in science. That is why it is so important to us that those in public office are scientifically literate—the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, referred to this—and indeed why I, like my noble friend Lord Jenkin and other noble Lords, am pleased that the Government have available the services of people like the Minister. The future prosperity of our country will depend upon our intellectual capital, so it is vital that we continue to invest in research.

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