The UK risks losing university innovations to the Far East because it lacks a coherent strategy for bringing ideas to market, claims one of the country's foremost electronics experts, writes Melanie Newman.
Ravi Silva, director of Surrey University's Advanced Technology Institute, told The Times Higher : "The UK is brilliant at innovation, but when it comes to taking those ideas into production it is lacking."
As the "classic example" he cited Dundee University, which developed the electronics underpinning liquid crystal displays used in flat-screen TVs.
The UK's market share of liquid crystal displays is zero at present, as the technology was snapped up in the Far East, Professor Silva said.
He added: "At present, China has little market presence in displays, but the Government is investing $1 billion (£500 million) in setting up the infrastructure for production facilities."
The UK is also at the forefront of research into polymers used in light-emitting diodes and solar cells. Professor Silva said there was a "high potential" this might not remain in Britain for much longer, as production facilities would move elsewhere.
He wanted the Department of Trade and Industry and research councils to produce a strategy to ensure that production remained in the UK.
Professor Silva and Ian Gibson, former chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, are forming a group with scientists from around the country to lobby the Government on exploiting nanotechnology.
Scientists have not yet agreed on which innovations deserve investment the most, Dr Gibson said "My idea is to identify a way in which nanotechnology could produce something connected to the Olympics, then lobby for investment in that."
Dave Norwood, chairman of the IP Group that works with universities to bring ideas and products to market, said: "Professor Silva's comments highlight the importance of supporting British technology. The UK produces world-class scientific innovation but has not consistently been successful at converting this into world-class companies."
A DTI spokesperson said: "We're investing to ensure that promising discoveries in UK universities are properly commercialised, and Britain's universities have an impressive record of successful spin-out companies. A key role for the new executive Technology Strategy Board will be to help drive innovation by working with business to ensure leading sectors prosper in the face of increasing global competition."