22 July 2009
Science plays a huge, but unrecognised, role in the service sector, and has the potential to greatly expand its influence and the benefits it can bring, according to a report published by the Royal Society the UK national academy of science today.
The Society's report, 'Hidden wealth: The contribution of science to service sector innovation', analyses the impact of science on the service sector, which currently employs over 80% of the UK working population. The report revealed that STEM is omnipresent in the service sector but rarely recognised. In particular, STEM is often embedded in the form of human capital, infrastructure (e.g. computing and IT) and the STEM capabilities of external consultancies.
Professor David Rhind, who chaired the Royal Society's report's working group, said: "The service sector generates between half and three quarters of the world's wealth and accounts for over eighty percent of employment in the UK. Despite this, little research has been done into how innovation, which drives the expansion of the service sector, develops. The Royal Society report identifies science, and related subjects, as startlingly significant in this development, which is intrinsically linked to the growth of the UK economy in the future and our emergence from recession."
The report details a raft of measures that would improve and assist the development of the UK service sector and innovation, considering in particular the public and banking sectors. Some key recommendations included:
- Research communities and agendas for the service sector should be built and supported
- Multi-disciplinary training should be developed in Higher Education institutions alongside more service sector placements to ensure relevant multi-disciplinary capabilities are acquired by STEM-trained personnel
- The scale of knowledge exchange between service organisations and public science base should be greatly increased
- Understanding of innovation in the service sector and the role of STEM should be improved
Organisation-specific recommendations included:
- Research Councils, Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) should ensure that the research base contributes to more effective modelling of systemic risk in financial services
- The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, together with the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils should develop one or more world-class, independent centres of modelling and risk assessment relevant to financial services
Professor Rhind continued, "It is of great concern that services, innovation and the role of STEM are so poorly understood, leading to the lack of a coherent policy for service innovation. This deficiency makes the recommendations of the report all the more significant, as they provide a template for future policy, one which the UK urgently needs. We are delighted that the Bank of England and Research Councils have led the way in regard to our implementing our recommendations."
Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of Research Councils UK (RCUK), welcomed the report, supporting its findings and commenting: "RCUK is now in dialogue with the Bank of England over future research agendas and regards them as a key research partner."