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scientists comment on the appointment of Paul Drayson as Science Minister

Former Defence Minister Paul Drayson, who left his post to pursue his passion for motor racing, has returned to Government to take up the post of Science Minister, with an expanded role and the right to attend cabinet.

Lord Drayson, Science Minister, said:

“I’m delighted – it’s my absolute dream job. I have worked all my life in science and technology, and so the opportunity now to make a real difference in this area is a real honour, and I can’t wait to get started. My appointment also represents an upgrading of the science minister role. I will attend cabinet and the Prime Minister has asked me to chair a new Cabinet Committee for Science and Innovation, which will ensure integration across Transport, Defence, Health and the whole of Government. This underlines the Prime Minister’s commitment to putting science at the heart of Government. My priority will be to build on the influential reviews by David Sainsbury and David Cooksey. The last thing we need now is more reviews, so my focus is to put ‘pedal to metal’, as they say in motor racing, as in to implement the changes that the whole science community acknowledge are now needed.

“Young people need to be inspired into opting for science and engineering careers. Look at me – I have had a blast. I am out here racing cars because I was a successful biotech entrepreneur. That depended on me studying for a PhD, and that depended on me studying maths, physics and chemistry at A-Level. I was also inspired by cool projects in the 60s and 70s like the space programme, and we now need to inspire the next generation with similar cool projects.

“The British are really good at this. Look at how many Nobel prize-winners we have, especially in medicine. We need to be as good as we can at building, developing and exploiting our science base. The future for the UK has to be as a high-tech, high-growth, high-intellectual property economy. Another thing Government can do is to be more intelligent in the way we use procurement, something which I believe I did in Defence. One of my priorities will be using procurement to support the science base to help get their products to the market. I look forward in particular to working with Gordon Brown, who is genuinely sincere about putting science at the heart of Government, and who has asked me to do this job because I know how to deliver on science and innovation.”

Dr Scott Steedman, Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“We welcome this appointment and look forward to working with Lord Drayson, whose proven interest in technology can only benefit the UK Engineering community.”

Dr John Morton, CEO of the Engineering and Technology Board, said:

“The ETB welcomes the appointment of Lord Drayson. With his in-depth knowledge and experience of the engineering and technology sector, Lord Drayson brings crucial insight to the role. As someone with extensive commercial and technical experience, Lord Drayson recognises the immense importance of science, engineering and innovation to Government, the economy and society as a whole. We look forward to working closely with him to promote the key roles played by engineers, engineering and technology.”

Baroness Susan Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution, said:

“This is great news. I’m sure Paul will continue in the same vein as David Sainsbury in helping the private and public sectors work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Prof Colin Blakemore, former head of the Medical Research Council, said:

“There’s no doubt he’s been very creative in recognising opportunities to move from basic research into innovation in his own career, so he chimes very much with the Government’s current focus on translational research. However, I do think he can be trusted to defend the investment needed for the basic research which is essential for innovation in the future.”

Diana Garnham, Chief Executive of the Science Council, said:

“I welcome a Science Minister who has had direct experience of science-based industry and someone whose personal interest in things scientific ranges from vaccines to motor cars.”

Phil Willis MP, Chairman of the Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills, said:

“That’s an excellent move because Paul Drayson has always been an advocate for science. We desperately need a champion like him in the run-up to the next spending review. At both the graduate and post-doctoral level there is a very serious shortage of scientists and engineers. Given that 70% of the 20:20 workforce have already left school, we need to convert people already in work to science and engineering skills. I hope Paul Drayson will grasp the seriousness of this and make it his priority.”

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