Those of you that are following the Nobel Prize announcements will know that this has already been an extraordinary week for British science. On Monday Professor Bob Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and on Tuesday Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim of Manchester University were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
Britain by and large does well by the Nobel Prizes. In fact since the first prizes were awarded in 1901 Britons have won more Nobel Prizes than any other nation apart from the United States. There are many reasons for this, of course. But the quality of British universities and the investment in outstanding research is at the heart of it. And this continues to matter. The QS world university rankings published in September rated Cambridge as the world’s outstanding university, but there were three more British universities – Oxford, Imperial and UCL – in the top ten. As a consequence of this our universities attract brilliant people from around the world; in 2007/08 these students were worth a staggering £1.9bn to the British economy and to UK academia, contributing significantly to the sums of money dedicated to research. This is indeed a virtuous circle.
So yes, British science continues to punch well above its weight in the world, something that we can all be proud of. And the Nobel Prizes this week serve to make this point for us. But what they also show is that it is Britain’s openness to this increasingly interconnected world that is an essential element in our success.