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UK Sets Sights on Top World Scientists
Oct 2006
LONDON, Oct. 27, 2006 -- In a bid to attract the best world scientists to the United Kingdom, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alistair Darling this week announced the creation of a new fellowship program similar to the Rhodes Scholarship.

"Science has been one of Britain's best-kept secrets. I want to change that," Darling said in a speech Monday to the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science. "To be the best you need to work with the best. This new scheme aims to attract more of the best in science to Britain. It will push our world-class science base further and help give us a business edge."

The program will be called The Royal Society International Fellowship and builds on the existing funding of over £100 million (approximately $189 million), creating one internationally recognizable British science fellowship "brand" under the direction of the Royal Society, Darling said. A similar program in Germany by the Humboldt Foundation has produced over 20,000 scientists and 35 Nobel Prize winners, he said.

"Like the Rhodes Scholarship has done in other areas, I hope that the new scheme will become a sought-after badge of honor for upwardly-mobile scientists and a must-have for the CVs of our future scientific leaders," Darling said.

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from around the world to the University of Oxford in England.

The new fellowship is a recommendation of the Global Science and Innovation Forum (GSIF) Strategy, published Monday, which highlights the importance of international science and innovation for the UK and for addressing global challenges. GSIF is a vehicle for cross-government exchanges of information and ideas to improve coordination of the UK effort in international science and innovation collaboration.

"Back in 1997, we looked to the USA, who'd had been taking the lead in championing links between science and business for 20 years. Now, some of our top UK universities are catching up with the best in the US. Comparisons show that UK universities produce roughly equivalent number of patents as their US counterparts and also produce a far higher number of spinouts per £1 million of research," Darling said.

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