By Candace Stuart
Small Times Senior Writer

OXFORD, Sept. 5, 2001 – Small tech entrepreneurship and innovation could spark the next economic boom in the United Kingdom if the fledgling industry receives sufficient support and resources, the nation’s top proponent for science and technology said Tuesday.

“There’s a cultural revolution taking place in the U.K. to exploit its science base,” said Lord David Sainsbury, head of the U.K.’s Office of Science and Technology, in a speech at the 2001 International Commercialization of Microsystems conference in Oxford.

Although the nation has a long history as an industrial leader,


Lord Sainsbury
it has yet to take full advantage of the intellectual prominence in science and technology that has developed in universities such as Oxford and its Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which specializes in microsystems, he said.

“I view both microsystems and nanotechnology as key,” he said, adding that the government is committed to supporting both areas with incentives and financial aid. “The British government is determined we will exploit these technologies.”

Sainsbury listed several initiatives that are expected to accelerate small tech research. In February the government announced it would provide 7.2 million pounds to collaborate with Procter & Gamble Co. and BAE Systems to create a center for innovation in microsystems and nanotechnology at Newcastle and Durham universities. The center is expected to promote exchanges between academia and business.

The government’s Research Councils and Ministry of Defense committed another 17 million pounds in June to launch two nanotechnology research collaborations. Universities in Oxford, Glasgow, York, Nottingham and Southampton and the National Institute for Medical Research will work together on biological studies. Scientists at Cambridge and Bristol universities and the University College London will focus on physical properties of nanoscale structures.

In 1998 the government increased its science budget by 15 percent and last year earmarked another 7 percent increase through 2004, he said. Basic technology, bioengineering, quantum computing and nanotechnology are among the areas defined as research priorities.

“These offer outstanding opportunities,” he said.

The government recognizes that entrepreneurs and innovators in the U.K. are critical to its goal, Sainsbury said. With assistance from an advisory board of researchers assembled in April, the U.K. is assessing its strengths to devise a strategy to make itself a small tech market leader, he said. By 2002, they hope to identify and facilitate the most promising technologies.

“We’re keen to support innovation and entrepreneurship,” he stressed.

Sainsbury addressed more than 100 people at a dinner held at Blenheim Palace near Oxford, England. The conference, now in its sixth year, brings together MEMS and microsystems-related companies, researchers and venture capitalists to discuss commercialization prospects of their industry.

The three-and-a-half-day conference concludes Thursday.


Candace Stuart at [email protected] or call 734-528-6290.


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