There is a central myth about British science and economic growth, and it goes like this science breeds wealth, Britain is in economic decline, therefore Britain has not done enough science. Actually, it is easy to show that a key cause of Britain's economic decline has been that the government has funded too much science... Post-war British science policy illustrates the folly of wasting money on research. The government decided, as it surveyed the ruins of war-torn Europe in 1945, that the future lay in computers, nuclear power and jet aircraft, so successive administrations poured money into these projects--to vast technical success. The world's first commercial mainframe computer was British, sold by Ferrranti in 1951 the world's first commercial jet aircraft was British, the Comet, in service in 1952 the first nuclear power station was British, Calder Hall, commissioned in 1956 and the world's first and only supersonic commercial jet aircraft was Anglo-French, Concorde, in service in 1976. Yet these technical advances crippled us economically, because they were so uncommercial. The nuclear generation of electricity, for example, had lost 2.1 billion pounds by 1975 (2.1 billion pounds was a lot then) Concord had lost us, alone, 2.3 billion pounds by 1976 the Comet crashed and America now dominates computers. Had these vast sums of money not been wasted on research, we would now be a significantly richer country.
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