UK Science minister Lord Sainsbury says rapid development in China based on cheap labour, not superior Chinese science.

UK Science minister Lord Sainsbury said yesterday that rapid development in China is based on cheap labour, not the superior quality of Chinese science. 

Sainsbury, credited as one of the first to predict rapid growth in Chinese and Indian science and technology, answered questions from the science and technology select committee about investment in UK R&D, and competition with China.

’You need to be careful in thinking the huge growth in China is fuelled by Chinese technology,’ he said. ’It isn’t, it is fuelled by wage costs that are five per cent of ours.’

And it is not Chinese technology that is driving growth in China. The Chinese are using international - particularly Japanese - technology, he said.

China is creating a small number of elite universities, said Sainsbury, which are ’ruthlessly selective’ in who they admit. The UK is ahead now but will have to move very quickly to keep up with competition like this. 

Sainsbury cited the floating of 20 UK university spin off companies in the past two years as evidence that the UK is proficient at knowledge transfer.

The select committee also questioned Sainsbury on the scrutiny of peer review and the Department of Trade and Industry’s role in the recently launched energy review. Katharine Sanderson