Downing St pow-wow urges R and D boost

December 18, 1998

Fifteen of Britain's key academic and industrial scientists went to Downing Street to discuss science with ministers this week.

A possible new science white paper was discussed as ministers and scientists debated the importance of science for wealth creation and the need to get the maximum from universities.

On the select guest list were a mixture of life and physical scientists who, according to the government's chief scientific adviser Sir Bob May, are not "just a bunch of old farts". Those invited included Sir Ron Oxburgh, rector of Imperial College, Brian Heap, master of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, Glaxo Wellcome's Richard Sykes, MRC biologist Matthew Freeman, Paul Nurse, director general of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Julia King of Rolls-Royce, Caroline Dean of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, Polina Bayvel, Royal Society university research fellow, John Taylor, the soon-to-be director general of the research councils, venture capitalist David Cooksey, Onora O'Neill, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge.

"The message was don't spread money widely in the hope someone will come out with an idea," said one of the scientists attending. "Rather put it in the hands of excellent individuals and they will deliver the results."

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