Willetts’ eight are not great but ‘nonsense’

Research areas championed by government dismissed as poor investments by technology expert

April 10, 2014

The “eight great technologies” championed by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, have been branded “nonsense” by an expert in small technology companies.

Marcus Gibson, founder of the Gibson Index, said that the priority areas – which range from big data to advanced materials – singled out in the government’s industrial strategy for £600 million of investment are known by “most people to be very poor at producing money”.

The investment would be better used to promote innovation-led growth if it were spent on concepts that are closer to market, he told Times Higher Education.

Speaking to THE after initially making the remarks at a Westminster Higher Education Forum about research and innovation last month, he said that the strategy “is a programme for the employment of the maximum number of scientists” and “not really at all” to do with industry.

Mr Gibson also criticised the support given to graphene. The government has invested at least £70 million to date, including £50 million to set up a global graphene technology hub at the University of Manchester and £20 million for academic research to help commercialise the material.

This is a “total waste of money”, he told THE. “We are never going to make any money out of graphene.” At the event, he cited another single-layer material known as stanene being developed in the US that could compete with graphene. “It would be much better if we did focus the money that is available in much more commercially focused concepts,” he added.

Joseph Tidd, professor of science and technology policy research at the University of Sussex, said that it would be risky if the government were betting on graphene alone, but the eight great technologies, or research areas, were very broad.

Professor Tidd said: “It would be hard to find technologies that are not covered by these eight categories…[which take in] virtually every field of research that the UK is currently strong in.”

Investments that could have an impact across a wide range of areas, such as advanced materials, are historically the best ones to make, he added.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze