Alistair Darling announces plans for a Rhodes-style scholarship scheme designed to give Britain a competitive edge.

The Royal Society has developed an international fellowship scheme that aims to attract the world’s best scientists to the UK and give the country a business edge. 

In a speech at the Royal Society yesterday, the trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling confirmed the plans for the scheme, under which researchers will come to Britain in order to work and build their network for future collaboration and business partnerships.

’Science has been one of Britain’s best kept secrets. I want to change that,’ said Darling. ’To be the best you have to work with the best.’ 

The number of fellowships and the cash involved have yet to be finalised, but the Royal Society aims to launch the scheme during 2007. 

A similar scheme in Germany, the Humbolt Foundation has produced over 20 000 scientists and 35 Nobel prize winners. But Rodney Townsend, RSC Director of Science and Technology, issued a note of caution.

’Whilst this is a welcome move and good for science in the UK, there are other issues of fundamental importance in pushing our world-class science base further and helping to give us a business edge,’ said Townsend. ’In the light of recent science department closures, the primary concern must be making sure the UK is producing enough highly skilled science graduates for industry to thrive,’ he told Chemistry World.

Victoria Gill