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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 00:45 GMT
Asia 'may sideline UK scientists'
Scientist in India (AP)
India is producing huge numbers of science graduates
British science is in danger of being sidelined by Asian research within 10 years, a report has warned.

UK think-tank Demos said China, India and South Korea were "innovation hotspots" and were shifting research dominance from west to east.

It cautioned that the UK must "wake up to what is unfolding" and not respond with "too little, too late".

But it added the developments should not be seen as a threat as they could open up many opportunities for the UK.

There are a lot of opportunities out there
James Wilsdon, Demos
Report co-author James Wilsdon, head of science and innovation at Demos, said the pace of innovation had been changing very quickly in Asia.

He said factors such as rapidly growing markets, injections of state spending on research, and the "brain gain" as researchers returned home from the US were driving the boost in science-based innovation.

South Korea, following its rapid industrial development 30 years ago, has recently doubled its investment in research and has augmented its scientific workforce; China has also gained huge amounts of state science funding; while India produces 2.5 million IT, science and engineering graduates a year, the report said.

Both multinational and home-grown companies were taking advantage of this, Demos added, and the US and Europe could no longer take for granted their pre-eminence in science.

The right mix

The report, Atlas of Ideas, commissioned by the UK government and a consortium of public and private sector partners, examined the role British science could play within this changing global scene.

Mr Wilsdon said: "The case we are making very strongly is that there are a lot of opportunities out there.

"If the UK can get the mix of policy and incentives right to encourage our best scientists to collaborate with the best scientists in these countries, that would be for the greater good of everyone."

But the report warned Britain needed to act now to ready itself for a world where innovation was not dominated by Europe and the US - or face being left behind.

The authors made several recommendations, including:

  • Boosting international partnerships through a 100m global research and development collaboration fund
  • Increasing the number of scholarships and exchanges with Asian countries

  • Creating knowledge banks and research programmes that solve the global public interest.

Mr Wilsdon said: "We just can't sit back and think: 'Oh well, I'm sure this will all work out'.

"This may not be adequate given the scale of what is happening and the opportunities that have been presented."

Commenting on the report, Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said: "Science is a global endeavour and the UK should embrace rather than be threatened by these developments.

"If we as a nation want to stay at the forefront of international science, we need to retain and create strong scientific links with countries such as India and China.

"For this to happen, the government must be prepared to earmark significant funding for international collaboration, combining our expertise to tackle global challenges such as energy, health and the alleviation of poverty.

"And, for its part, the UK scientific community must be prepared to look to these countries when building research partnerships."

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