Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 17:04 UK

Defence job for science minister

Military robot
The MoD has an annual research budget of over 2bn

Lord Drayson will oversee UK military research spending in addition to his civil responsibilities.

The peer was handed a Ministry of Defence brief in Gordon Brown's government reshuffle.

The changes also merged science and business in the new Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

The minister is understood to be delighted to have oversight of military research and development, with a budget of over £2bn per year.

He was procurement minister in the MoD before stepping down in 2007 to pursue his passion of motor racing.

Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, praised Lord Drayson's commitment to ensuring that "the science budget will remain strong and ring-fenced".

"We hope that he is not overextended in dividing his time between the new business department and the MoD and that he is able to continue to give science the attention it needs and deserves," he said.

Lord Drayson
Lord Drayson is said to be pleased to take on the additional responsibility

"With the right steering, the two roles have great potential to complement one another and boost science in the UK."

But critics have expressed reservations about the commercial direction UK science will take if research is amalgamated with business.

Lord Winston, professor of science and society at Imperial College London said it was wrong to direct science "too strongly towards simply solving our economic problem".

"We need informed citizens who can scrutinise science ensuring it does not spin out of control," he said.

"Of course there are major benefits in exploring its business and commercial side but if this not felt by people to be in their best interests, they may decide to reject a vital technology."

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