The government has cited grid computing as an example of technology that should receive more public funding as part of an action plan to boost innovation among UK businesses.
The trade and industry secretary, Patricia Hewitt, published a report on Wednesday that details government plans to create a National Technology Strategy to increase the amount of innovative new technologies produced and developed in the UK and exported abroad. The strategy will be underpinned by £150m in funding -- including £90m allocated to nanotechnology, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
"For the economy as a whole, innovation is the key to higher productivity and greater prosperity for all," said Hewitt. "To hold our own in modern manufacturing we will need to innovate strongly by creating new high-tech manufacturing industries and upgrading traditional sectors such as steel and textiles."
The report, Competing in the global economy: the innovation challenge, details plans to create a Technology Strategy Board, made up of business and government representatives, to advise on the allocation of funds to innovative technology projects.
Grid computing is one of the technologies singled out as an important trend in the section of the report that deals with technical innovation. As grid technology develops it will "permit maximum use of the Internet by enabling businesses of all sizes to share resources such as processing power and databases in secure, seamless, transparent and flexible ways," the report states.
The e-diamond (Digital Mammography National Database) project is cited by the report as the kind of innovative grid project that warrants greater public funding. The project, carried out by a team made up of industry and academia, including Guy's Hospital and NHS Breast Screening Centre, using grid technology to provide high-speed access to patient data as well as analytical and data-mining tools.
But shadow industry secretary Stephen O'Brien MP claimed that the recent policy of outsourcing jobs to countries such as India was a clear example that businesses do not believe the UK is a satisfactory environment for innovation and development. "Whilst the government is increasing the burdens on business, companies who once used 'Made in Britain' as a marketing tool have moved to sourcing overseas. It clearly demonstrates that this government has not been committed to boosting innovation and that our education and skills agenda is failing," he said.
"What we need to do is ensure Britain has a low tax and low regulatory environment to allow manufacturers to compete on a global scale," he added.
Science and innovation minister Lord Sainsbury, who has been leading a review of innovation policy, said the government will have increased funding of Research Councils to scientific and engineering research from £1.3bn in 1997 to nearly £3bn by 2005-6.
"We want the UK to be a key knowledge hub in the global economy: a country with a reputation not only for outstanding scientific and technological discovery, but also for turning that knowledge into new and exciting products and services," said Lord Sainsbury.