The UK Government needs to prioritise science education in schools if it wants to build upon the country's research and development sector, Intel's European general manager has suggested.
Speaking at the Wireless Cities event in Cannes, Gordon Graylish told ZDNet UK that the UK was "still generating good ideas" and attracting "the best and the smartest" through its openness to talent from elsewhere in Europe, but said he was concerned at poor results in maintaining technical education.
"There's an almost deliberate streaming by the schools out of mathematics and sciences, based on the fact that those are harder subjects," Graylish said on Thursday. "So, if you want to have the right league tables, you'd better only have the good people in it — and sometimes people deliver at a different level."
Graylish pointed out that encouraging people to stay in the sciences was "absolutely critical for the long-term success of the society, because they are the people who are ultimately going to create wealth". He acknowledged that the Government had taken some steps towards fixing the problem, but insisted that it had to be a major priority in the future.
However, Graylish's comments may anger some academics as Intel recently decided to close its Cambridge lab, the only university-affiliated site it had in the country. Graylish said the decision had been made with "great regret" but claimed that Intel had been getting "too fragmented in the physical location of our research", which had led to unsustainable overheads in terms of communicating between research teams.
Intel is a major backer of the move in Europe towards ubiquitous wireless connectivity, and Graylish stressed the importance of this in creating social inclusivity – a factor he also linked to the need for the UK to play to its strengths as a knowledge-based economy.
"The UK is not going to win on the backs of the labour of its people — the physical labour — because you're competing with people who will do it for a crust of bread. That can't be the future for the UK," Graylish suggested.
The last year has seen a significant rise in the amount of investment made into UK-based research and development, with £19.2bn being spent in the sector compared to £17bn the year before. In October, the outgoing science minister, Lord Sainsbury, said the Government was "committed to making the UK one of the best places in the world for science and innovation".