FROM APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY TO BIOTECHNOLOGY: SCIENCE ...

presidentcalendarBiotechnology

Feb 12, 2013 (4 years and 6 months ago)

137 views

online July 14, 2010
first published
, doi: 10.1098/rsnr.2010.0044
64 2010 Notes Rec. R. Soc.

Robert Bud

science, medicine and industrial renewal
From applied microbiology to biotechnology:


Email alerting service
herein the box at the top right-hand corner of the article or click
Receive free email alerts when new articles cite this article - sign up
http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/subscriptions go to: Notes Rec. R. Soc.To subscribe to
on February 11, 2013rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.orgDownloaded from
FROM APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY TO BIOTECHNOLOGY:SCIENCE,
MEDICINE AND INDUSTRIAL RENEWAL
by
R
OBERT
B
UD
*
Science Museum,London SW7 2DD,UK
In the late 1970s politicians and civil servants were acutely aware of the chronic decline of
the manufacturing sector as a source of employment in Britain.At a time of fear of mass
unemployment,sources of new work were urgently sought.Biotechnology had been
promoted by visionaries since the early twentieth century.With oil prices soaring,its
potential to produce substitutes for petroleum derivatives seemed newly attractive.At the
beginning of 1976,John Bu’Lock at Manchester brought the attention of the new President
of the Royal Society,Lord Todd,to the developments in enzyme and fermentation
technologies.Both the Society and government began to take biotechnology seriously.In
1979 the Society organized a groundbreaking meeting,‘New horizons in industrial
microbiology’.In parallel,John Ashworth,the chief scientist of the government think-tank
the Central Policy Review Staff,prompted by American developments in genetic
engineering,its commercial exploitation and regional development,led thinking among
government officials.The Spinks enquiry into biotechnology was consequently formed in
1979 as a collaborative enterprise of the Advisory Council for Applied Research and
Development,the Advisory Board for the Research Councils and the Royal Society.The
recommendations for far-reaching collaboration between research councils,government and
industry were not fully implemented.However,even the limited implementation led to new
models of science that would be significant in the emergence of a reconstruction of science.
B
ACKGROUND
The banking crisis of 2008 caused many to reflect on the revolution in the British economy
that had occurred in the last decades of the twentieth century.Once fundamentally dependent
for wealth and work on manufacturing,the country had changed radically.The proportion of
employment represented by manufacturing fell from 36% in the 1960s to 31% in 1975,to
26% within a decade,and by a further 10% in the following 20 years.
1
Much of this shift
at 5% a decade happened silently,over a long period.However,in the years around 1980
the decline of traditional manufactures occasioned much debate and anxiety.That debate
framed the process by which biotechnology became a national priority in Britain.
Even if,in Britain,the late 1970s would be most widely remembered by the ‘winter of
discontent’ and subsequent massive inflation—reaching 30% at one point—the worst fears
*robert.bud@sciencemuseum.org.uk
Notes Rec.R.Soc.(2010) 64,S17–S29
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2010.0044
Published online 14 July 2010
S17
This journal is q 2010 The Royal Society
on February 11, 2013rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.orgDownloaded from