FORMER British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish entrepreneur Patrick Collison have endorsed a radical plan to make the UK a “science superpower”.
The Way of the Future, from the Entrepreneurs Network and the Tony Blair Institute, sets out ten ideas required for Britain to tackle stagnating productivity and become world-leading in science.
Tipperary-born Mr Collison, who founded the global payments giant Stripe - now valued at close to $100bn – with his younger brother John in 2010, has put his weight behind the new programme.
“The industrial and scientific revolutions that blossomed in the UK were the product of a deliberate ambition, an emphasis on technical and scientific understanding, a willingness to contemplate the unusual, an appreciation for experimentation in institutions and incentives, a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and internalisation of the basic truth that improvements to our material state are both possible and urgent,” the Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur said.
He added: “These attitudes, which are not the default cultural orientation in any society, helped initiate a durable, multi-century trajectory that propelled standards of living to heights previously unimagined. All evidence suggests that this is also the mindset that will help us discover the best ways to improve the society that we live in today.”
The Way of the Future report, which brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, historians and policy wonks argues that Britain needs to champion innovation by resurrecting Victorian-style Great Exhibition, overhaul science funding to slash bureaucracy and build a new world-leading centre for research in the fields of genomics, proteomics, and epigenomics.
It also calls for the recruitment of the most promising young scientific talent from across the world with generous scholarships.
The report also claims Britain should become a nation of early adopters by pushing regulators to proactively remove barriers to new emerging technologies, such as drones, lab-grown meat, and gene-editing.
The collection, which was a joint project from The Entrepreneurs Network and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), is also endorsed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“The 21st century technology revolution is transformative, extraordinary in its consequences and impact and will and should dominate our thinking in the years to come,” the former Prime Minister said.
“No one doubts technology can also have negative effects, but the critical point is that for good or ill, it is changing the world.
This is the real-world event that is happening in our time, to our people and the world over. The challenge for politics is to understand it, master it, and harness it for good.”
He added: “Yet too often policymakers either ignore its importance or focus on questions like those to do with privacy which are important but limited; when the real debate should be around how we use technology to usher in a new advance of humankind."
One essay in The New Way collection calls for Britain to adopt a proactive approach to attracting the best and the brightest from around the world.
Arguing that the nation needs to go further than simply removing barriers in the visa system, it suggests the country should actively seek out promising young talent from across the globe and attract them to the UK with scholarships to study at British universities and support ground-breaking research.
“Just as Premier League clubs invest heavily in scouting the next Neymar or Messi from South America, the UK should do the same in terms of finding the next Demis Hassabis or Katalin Karikó.” says Sam Dumitriu, Research Director at The Entrepreneurs Network and one of the report’s authors.
The authors also stress that it is not enough for Britain to invent the latest technology, we also need to become a nation of early adopters.
Philip Salter, Founder of The Entrepreneurs Network says: “Too often when talking about cutting-edge technology, most of the attention is focused on developing it within the UK.
"For people to really feel the benefits of new technology, they need to be able to buy it at home too.
"This is where the idea for Testbed Nation comes from – we want British people to be the first to order a drone-delivered lab-grown beef burger and take a self-driving car on their daily commute.”