London: Faced with India and China's growing strengths in medical research, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced the creation of a 'global medical excellence cluster' comprising universities and drugs companies.
The hub is to be set up in southeast England to protect Britain's science base and boost its ability to find new cures. This is the latest of measures initiated by government functionaries while citing the growing "threat" of India and China in the fields of education, employment, trade and industry.
Blair said at a meeting of representatives of drugs companies and leading universities at 10, Downing Street: "I am very concerned about the risk from India and China and competition from America.
"China and India are already in some respects First World economies. They are investing heavily in their science and technology. The development of science and technology is now central to our economic future. If we fail to make the most of what we have, then we will fall behind."
According to Blair, the situation can be turned to Britain's advantage by linking business and academia.
Noting that Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai and New Delhi were developing similar approaches, Blair said the aim was for the "cluster" to be similar to the one in Boston, Massachusetts, that includes Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, eight medical schools, 14 teaching hospitals and 200 biotechnology companies.
The meeting was attended by David Brennan, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, Chris O'Donnell, the chief executive of hip-and-knee replacement maker Smith and Nephew, David Cooksey, a biotechnology guru, and Richard Sykes, a rector of the Imperial College in London.
Universities to be included in the cluster are Imperial College, University College London, King's College, Oxford and Cambridge. Extra funding would be available for specialist infrastructure and research projects in southeast England, including Oxford and Cambridge.