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Govt tells science to budge up for arts at new hi-tech uni

UK minister does what that nice Mr Google suggested

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Science and universities minister David Willetts wants to start a new technology university, pretty much following what Eric Schmidt said about mixing up the arts and sciences.

Willetts name-dropped the Google boss in a speech at Policy Exchange yesterday, announcing the launch of his plans for a high-tech Britain. The humanities had to be included in any vision of Blighty as an engineering powerhouse, he said citing Schmidt as an authority:

Eric Schmidt of Google caught the mood in his MacTaggart lecture when he said that this arts v sciences debate really ought to be dead and buried and instead we should recognise how complementary they are. I like the idea that instead of just thinking about STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths, we should add the Arts so it becomes STEAM.

At the centre of Willetts' plan for promoting growth in high-tech sectors is the creation of a new science and technology university, which will be dedicated to postgraduate research and funded from the private sector - primarily international companies with an interest in employing British graduates.

Willetts said it would be a "new type of university" and that he was inviting proposals on how to do it from "local economic partnerships, universities, businesses and international partners".

In the wide-ranging speech, Willetts also called for more co-operation between sciences, referencing satellite-controlled fertiliser distributors as an example of co-operation between "the 'wet' biological sciences" and the "data processing capacities of 'dry' IT".

Some more practical measures for encouraging UK tech business were also on the cards including more focused funding on offer for businesses not yet at the stage of venture capital investment. The government would be reintroducing Smart awards he said - government-sponsored prizes that highlight strong new technologies, making venture capitalists more confident about investing in British business.

David Willetts' speech can be read here. ®

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