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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Science: society's new saviour?

Dickon Hooper
The Politics Show
BBC West


Video: Saved by science?

The Politics Show investigates whether science and technology companies could offer a way out of the recession.

Bristol University Professor of Science, Kathy Sykes, has said that, "Science represents a new hope for a way out of the recession".

And she was backed up by the Science Minister, Lord Drayson, who has been visiting the West Country during national Science Week.

He was here to praise the West's science and technology companies as the future driving force of UK growth.

It was not great timing though, as the Gloucestershire-based firm Renishaw, which makes scientific and medical equipment, announced it was to cut 500 jobs in the recession.

Major part to play

Lord Drayson
Lord Drayson: science companies are future driving force of UK growth

It is exactly the type of firm that Lord Drayson was here to talk up, but the news did not throw him off course.

"We have to make sure we do everything we can as a government to help people get through these difficult times," he said.

"For companies like [Renishaw], there are opportunities and I hope they can weather the difficult times."

Gordon Brown has said he will not make cuts in scientific investment during the recession, as in previous governments, hoping that research and development will help lever us out of the dip - and boost growth once the UK is on the up again.

Lord Drayson said the West Country had a major part to play in this recovery.

"In the South West we have some of the most ground-breaking scientific businesses around, like Airbus, HP, Rolls and other robotic companies."

Professor Sykes added: "The country has relied so much on financial services and we've been living in a consumer-driven society, we need to move to a more social-driven society, thinking about solving problems like climate change and energy supply.

"We have such talents here."

Science v Arts

But any look at "The Sciences" would not be complete without a comment from its age-old sparring partner, "The Arts".

Dick Penny, of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, argued his case to get more investment into what he called the "fastest-growing sector in our economy".

"The arts is now worth more than 7% of our economy. Investment in the arts invests in who we are as human beings and helps generate new ideas for wealth creation," he said.

Even Lord Drayson could not argue with that.

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