Inventor James Dyson has called for science and engineering courses to be promoted and award tax credits to companies investing in research and development.
In his ‘Ingenious Britain report, commissioned by the Conservatve Party, Dyson says Britian is falling behind less developed and smaller countries in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) graduates.
Dyson says this will cause the UK to lose its international competitiveness. He says he wants to make the UK a leading high tech exporter.
“We need to inspire and enlighten people: science and engineering can change lives, society and the economy. High tech exports create real wealth and jobs, and will help set us on a course for sustainable prosperity. If we don’t capitalise on our engineering expertise now they’ll be no turning back.
“Change must start with the Government. We in Britain have brilliant minds, a world renowned university system, and a base of ingenious, specialist technology companies.
“We need to build on this success: encouraging more people to become engineers and scientists by developing a cultural attitude and education system that encourages and nurtures new talent. Then we need to harness their ideas and turn them into products the world wants,” he said.
Dyson says four areas need to be addressed:
- Culture - He says the UK’s science, engineering and manufacturing base has been neglected for decades, and are undervalued and misunderstood as a result. He wants the Government to change attitudes by encouraging research, delivering skills and backing significant infrastructure projects. It must make early and bold decisions on large scale engineering projects to demonstrate Britain’s high tech ability.
- Education - Science, Design and Technology in schools have been marginalised and the UK is not producing enough scientists and engineers, he says. More people need to take-up these subjects, and produce the best teachers to inspire them. Government should make teacher recruitment more flexible and encourage independent schools to share there expertise and experience with state schools.
- Universities - Globally, the UK excels at university based research, but a disjointed system means that little of our blue skies research is shared or used commercially by UK companies. Government should seek to reform how universities are funded and assessed to give them the flexibility to provide what students and companies want – such as shorter courses with industry experience.
- Financing start-ups - There is not enough entrepreneurial finance available to fund innovative UK companies. This has been exacerbated by the global recession.Government must use the power of government guarantees to encourage lenders to extend credit to small, inventive businesses.
- Supporting high tech companies - If the UK is to compete and prosper as Europe’s leading technology exporter, we need to increase R&D investment. Tax credits must be refocused onto high tech companies, small businesses and new start-ups in order to stimulate a new wave of technology. When the public finances allow, the rate should be increased to 200%. The claim process must also be streamlined. These changes need not necessarily lead to a higher overall cost to the exchequer.