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94.9% think Willetts’ big science idea won’t work

January 6, 2012

Science minister David Willetts kicked off the new year with his ambition of creating new science and technology universities – but with no money from the government.

“This time we will be looking to private finance and perhaps sponsorship from some of the businesses that are keen to recruit more British graduates,” he said.

According to a poll of Guardian readers, 94.9% think that Willetts’ vision is not achievable. What do you think?

Here’s a batch of the best articles on Willetts’ speech – comment below if we’ve missed any!

Willetts cooks up ‘half-baked’ plan for science institutions – Times Higher Education

Willetts and the problem of blue skies research – Nature

Our hi-tech future – John Leach

Building the UK’s hi-tech future – CaSE

The case for support – Stephen Curry

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 3:29 pm

    There is a big difference between something being achievable and being possible. The 99.4% I should wager think that it is not possible because the private sector wont stump up any extra money for this, but that is not to say they wont. I am of the 99.4% but my view is that it is highly unlikely to come into fruition without public money rather than saying its not achievable.

    • January 12, 2012 3:37 pm

      Hi Oliver,

      I’d expect people within that 94.9% to run a spectrum between thinking it’s possible but just not sensible as an idea without public money and, on the hand, thinking the idea is complete tosh. And, of course, we have only a percentage, not a sample size.

      I wonder whether the no-public-money strategy is designed to make companies think they can have free rein to establish and run these places. They could have always done that anyway, but this is a way of saying government supports you in doing that – and we’d love it if you did.


      • January 13, 2012 12:38 pm

        Hi Adam,

        Thing is, companies as you say could have done this anyway, then Willett’s speech and ‘announcement’ was totally pointless. Perhaps that’s too harsh. I can see that he may have wanted to publicly emphasise that message and make it look like the Government is “really really trying very hard”, but that message, in this speech at least, is nullified by him saying that this kind of public-private consortia venture is on its own.

      • January 13, 2012 2:15 pm

        I think that’s exactly what’s going on. Take it into context with other recent announcements from the government and it makes sense that the minister would take that line. “We’ll give you 50m to commercialise graphene and 150m for extra life sciences research (actually not new money). We’re already stumping up a lot. Now meet us halfway and build us some new institutions please!”

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