PM asks for expert advice on science potential

November 15, 2002

Four Cambridge University scientists were invited to a briefing at Downing Street last week to bring prime minister Tony Blair up to speed on UK science.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt and four members of the Council for Science and Technology were also present.

Chief scientific adviser David King organised the seminar. He said he hoped that such seminars would take place twice yearly. He said that they could inform the prime minister's policies and flag up public understanding issues.

He said: "The prime minister wants to be informed about what science, engineering and technology have to say and how they will impinge on the future of the country. Today we heard about opportunities and risk avoidance, how science should be lie at the heart of policy-making."

Before the meeting, Mr Blair said: "I am delighted to welcome some of our leading scientists to Downing Street today and am looking forward to learning more. The work they are doing offers exciting potential. Our job - government and the science community working together - is to create the environment where British science can lead the world."

Kay-Tee Khaw, of Cambridge's department of community medicine, said she described to the prime minister her findings on ageing. "I was trying to quantify lifestyle measures for good health. This is useful for policy directions on pensions provision and long-term care."

Research by Andy Hopper, professor of communications engineering at Cambridge, has spawned ten spin-off companies. He told Mr Blair that after the collapse in venture capital funding for high-tech companies, Department of Trade and Industry support had been exemplary. He said flexibility was crucial for universities and that they should not be overmanaged.

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