Calls For 4G Auction Windfall To Be Invested In Science And Tech

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Brian Cox joins other big names from the science community to back It’s 4Growth campaign

A host of big names have backed a petition to get the government to spend the £4 billion it gets from the Ofcom-run 4G auction at the end of the year on science and technology.

The 4G auction will see all the UK’s major providers bidding for spectrum, which will allow them to provide next-generation mobile Internet. EE is due to launch its own 4G services over the 1800MHz band tomorrow, whilst other providers, including O2 and Vodafone, are expected to get their own offerings out next spring.

The additional spectrum will bring in billions for the government, which has already been urged by the Labour opposition to filter the funds into the development of 100,000 affordable homes.

But non-government bodies want the money to go into other ways to  support the economic growth of the UK.

Celeb endorsements for 4G auction funds

Celebrity physicist Brian Cox and Ben Goldacre, author of ‘Bad Science’, and now ‘Bad Pharma’, have signed the petition written up by the It’s 4Growth campaign. The group has been set up by Nesta, a charity focused on promoting innovation, and the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE).
“From training new science and maths teachers, to creating new funds to help innovative businesses, £4 billion could revolutionise the UK,” a report from the campaign read.Other signatories include Nobel laureate and graphene pioneer Andre Geim, and Lord William Waldegrave, the former chief secretary to the Treasury and science minister.

Brian cox

“The proceeds of the auction are a return on past generations’ investments in technology. the responsible way to use it is to reinvest them in technology.”

The group believes more needs to be done in the UK to turn ideas from universities into commercial projects, from both the public and private sectors.

It cited figures showing 45 percent of UK R&D is funded by business, but in the US, Germany and Japan over 60 percent comes from the private sector. Yet government has to invest more, as evidence has shown innovation works best where the state is supportive.

“Technology policy in the UK has in the past lurched between the extremes of central planning and laissez-faire. Both approaches have had their failures,” the report added.

“The middle way is for government to do what society and the private sector cannot, in order to enable them to do more. By reinvesting the proceeds of the 4G auction the government would be doing precisely this.”

Specifically, the group recommended the government put £750 million of the proceeds into a ten-year fund to invest in education and research. This would be split between investing in teacher training, funding early-career researchers and attracting the best researchers in the world to the UK.

It also suggested spending £1.15 billion on technology procurement alone, which would include the formation of a DARPA-like body – the UK Vision Agency. Another £1.2 billion should go on research facilities, according to 4Growth.

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