The UK's Science and Technology Imperative
America is serious about avoiding a future where the West must rely on authoritarian regimes for technology. The United Kingdom's policymakers also need to recognize that science and innovation are not only bedrocks of the West’s future prosperity, but also vital for its global standing.
LONDON – The challenge that China’s rise poses for liberal democracies puts a premium on pushing the frontiers of science and technology. Western economies have a deep ability to innovate when they have the will to do so, as the rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has shown. But how can this momentum be maintained across a wide range of areas when we are not confronting an acute crisis?
In many respects, the United States is leading the way. Soon after taking office, President Joe Biden elevated the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to cabinet status, and appointed the renowned geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician Eric Lander to the post. And the US Innovation and Competition Act, passed by the Senate in June, matches this signal of intent with action, promising to commit $250 billion to promote emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing.
America is serious about avoiding a future in which the West must rely on authoritarian regimes for technology in the same way we once depended on them for oil. But it is less clear what role the United Kingdom, the smaller partner in the new Atlantic Charter that Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed in June, will play in securing technological leadership for the West.