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Science and Technology in Britain

Britain has a long record of achievement in science and technology. Nobel prizes for science have been won by over 70 British citizens, second only to the United States.

In the last two decades major contributions have been made by British scientists working in universities, research institutes and industry. These have included theories on black holes and the origins of the universe; the discovery of genes linked to cystic fibrosis and other diseases; the development of monoclonal antibodies and scanning techniques for medical diagnosis; the invention of DNA profiling to identify an individual from blood and tissue specimens; and the world's first combined heart, lung and liver transplant.

The government considers that public funding should support work in the basic sciences to advance knowledge and technological capability and provide training for scientists. Industry, however, is expected to fund the commercial applications of scientific advances.

Total expenditures in 1999 on scientific research and development (R&D) was more than £14 million, 2.2 per cent of GNP. Industry provides 50 per cent of the funding. The government provides just over 40 percent with the rest coming from charities, trusts and overseas investment.

Industrial Research & Development
Industries with the highest levels of R&D are electronics, chemicals and aerospace. Of a total of £8,000 million in 1999-2000, industry contributed 68 percent, government 17 percent and the rest came from foreign interests.

Electronic firms are involved in developing new semiconductor materials for computer applications in personal communictions and collision warning devices. Chemical research has led to breakthroughs in heat-resistant engineering plastics and substitutes for environmentally harmful chemicals. Pharmaceuticals is the most research intensive segment of the chemical industry. Their research has produced several of the world's best-selling drugs such as the ulcer treatment Zantac and beta-blockers to treat heart conditions. Pioneering achievements in aerospace include advanced radar and aircraft control systems, flight simulators and ejection seats.