The companies that can afford to do basic research (and can't afford not to) are ones that dominate their markets. ... It's cheap insurance, since failing to do basic research guarantees that the next major advance will be oened by someone else.
It was basic research in the photoelectric field-in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.
Finally, assuming that many of those are fulfilled, which won't be easy in tight budget times, we're taking the supply side at the basic research level, because that's where government is absolutely fundamental.
Societies will, of course, wish to exercise prudence in deciding which technologies that is, which applications of science are to be pursued and which not. But without funding basic research, without supporting the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake, our options become dangerously limited.
It is when physicians are bogged down by their incomplete technologies, by the innumerable things they are obliged to do in medicine when they lack a clear understanding of disease mechanisms, that the deficiencies of the health-care system are most conspicuous. If I were a policy-maker, interested in saving money for health care over the long haul, I would regard it as an act of high prudence to give high priority to a lot more basic research in biologic science.
Basic research is not the same as development. A crash programme for the latter may be successful; but for the former it is like trying to make nine women pregnant at once in the hope of getting a baby in a month's time.
We need to look at less obvious paths, things like the wind in the jet stream, which is very high up. The material science of what type of kite string you would need to connect up to that. That's still at the basic research level.
Government investment unlocks a huge amount of private sector activity, but the basic research that we put into IT work that led to the Internet and lots of great companies and jobs, the basic work we put into the health care sector, where it's over $30 billion a year in R&D that led the biotech and pharma jobs. And it creates jobs and it creates new technologies that will be productized. But the government has to prime the pump here. The basic ideas, as in those other industries, start with government investment.