Industrial strategy, UK: where to back labs, prototypes and designs
This document is part of an Institute of Ideas Economy Forum response to the British Government’s Green Paper on industrial strategy, a consultation launched by business minister Greg Clark. The full response is available by clicking on this link:
Go for Growth
Introduction: new sectors of production, 2030
Britain needs not just new products, processes and services, nor even just new methods of corporate innovation, but also whole new sectors of production. In our view, the priority areas for investment in science, research and innovation should prepare the way for these new sectors.
A cursory glance at the British economy in the 1930s reveals one of the characteristic features of that decade – the growth of new industries. Around the Midlands and the South East, sectors such as aircraft, chemicals, electrical engineering, synthetic fibres, printing, paper and publishing, cars, household appliances and furniture had a relatively good Depression.
While their overall benefit to the British economy in the 1930s has to be set against what was achieved through a revival of housebuilding, the performance of the new industries stood in some contrast with old industries located elsewhere: coal, shipbuilding, iron, steel, cotton and wool. (1) The new industries were competitive and created employment. Moreover, after many vicissitudes, they are still around today, even if some of them (fibres, radios, household appliances) have been reduced in status.
The years to 2030 will be nothing like the 1930s. However, with the exception of cybersecurity, there are few very obvious candidates for new sectors of production today. In part, that’s because the very novelty of such sectors makes them hard to forecast. In part, too, there is always a problem defining what is really new about a new sector. Last, forming a new sector of production is not quite the same as deciding on priority areas for investment in science, research and innovation.
It is important to get the balance right here. Basic, blue-skies research is utterly indispensable, even if governments have for too long been sceptical about it. (2) Basic, blueskies research has, historically, led to very practical technological advance, as is shown by the case of John Tyndall, who worked out why the sky is blue. (3) However, basic research has no direct connection with the new sectors that eventually it helps bring about. And yet: by thinking carefully about new sectors of production, we can hope to gain some important clues about the kind of research and development (R&D) and innovation the government should be backing.
The Green Paper usefully describes technologies which the Government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund could support (p15). These include smart and clean energy technologies (such as storage and demand-response grid technologies); robotics and artificial intelligence (including connected and autonomous vehicles and drones); satellites and space technologies; leading-edge healthcare and medicine; manufacturing processes and materials of the future; biotechnology and synthetic biology; quantum technologies, and transformative digital technologies including supercomputing, advanced modeling, and 5G mobile networks. The Green Paper also reminds us (p16): ‘Given its central importance to a range of new technologies, including in the automotive sector, the government has also asked Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, to consider the case for a new research institution as a focal point for work on battery technology, energy storage and grid technology. Sir Mark will report in early 2017.’
We have no quarrel with any of this. All the technologies discussed are highly relevant to the transformation that the British economy now needs to make. However, this is a supply-side list of technologies that already exist, not a demand-side enquiry into the kind of production sectors that might give the biggest lead to British science, research and innovation.
To that enquiry we now turn. The reader should understand that the sectors proposed for further consideration are proposed tentatively. The UK is at the very start of what should be a national debate over the worthiest sectors to lead British innovation. The debate, like scientific research itself, must always be open ended. The rest of this paper, then, is by its nature speculative. Changes will be made to candidate sectors as new developments occur. The treatment here is important not so much because the sectors discussed will always be the right ones, but because the thinking that led to them may prove useful when doing a more formal and more public appraisal in the future.
What criteria should we apply in deciding on new sectors?
To represent innovation as merely a combination of old approaches is to do the cause of the new an injustice. (4) But a dynamic new sector can be an ingenious synthesis of old ones. All that needs to be remembered here is that sectors such as optoelectronics – which mixes light with electronics – have been around a long time. In the domain of research rather than full-scale production, indeed, the forecaster Herman Kahn used to refer to the potential of the ‘hyphenated sciences’ (bio-physics, bio-electronics) more than 30 years ago. (5) So in any future exercise of the sort we engage in here, we advise looking at new combinations of old sectors with a cold eye.
With that simple proviso, by what criteria might it be reasonable to judge new sectors of production that could benefit from government backing for high technology? To its credit, the Green Paper, almost in passing, mentions three of the most important criteria in its opening chapter, ‘Investing in science, research and innovation’. It says that Britain must embrace innovation ‘to keep ahead of the competition, create more good jobs, and make sure jobs in the UK are secure’.
These exacting criteria should be applied when considering how to prepare for new sectors of production.
New sectors need to be competitive, in that they can compete on the world market, add to exports, and cannot easily be usurped by low-cost overseas producers. They need to be high-tech, basing themselves on advanced processes and IT. Their productivity needs to be high.
New sectors, however, also need to create a lot of good, highly paid, motivating jobs. And to reconcile this criterion with the first is to square a pretty difficult circle. But it can be done. The British car industry, for instance, boasts both relatively high productivity and a lot of primary and secondary jobs.
The third criterion hinted at by the Green Paper pertains to the durability of jobs. The potential new sectors that should be born in mind when planning public investment in science, research and innovation need to stand the test of time. The emergence of a new sector will not happen overnight; but provided one can be said to have emerged by 2030, we can then demand that it stay the course till 2050. Durability, then, means that a new sector has a lifespan of at least 20 years.
To these three criteria could be added two others. New sectors of production should ideally meet real areas of consumer, business or government demand. At the same time, they should ideally foster the development of new skills.
Some possible candidates for new sectors
In the field of genomics, synthetic biology applies the principles of electronic and chemical engineering to the design, construction and characterisation of biological systems from traditional genetic engineering research. (6) It can help replace existing fine chemicals and develop superior ones, including fuels, flavours and fragrances. (7) Mammalian synthetic biology can assist in disease diagnosis, screening for pharmaceutical compounds to combat diseases, screening for and manufacturing vaccines, and in gene therapy, cell therapy, immunotherapy, and therapies for cancers and infectious diseases. (8)
It is an attractive field with a multiple of applications. Worryingly, though, the global market for it is variously estimated at $38.7bn in 2020, based on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.4 per cent from 2014 onward (9), but, also, at only $5.6bn in 2024, based on a CAGR of 24 per cent from 2013 onward. (10) Moreover, the pioneering development of semi-synthetic artemisinin, an antimalarial drug, took nearly 10 years. (11) Similarly, a team of 20 led by Craig Venter, the bête noir of US biology, took more than 10 years and $40m to synthesise a bacterial chromosome and put it in a bacterium so as to replace the bacterium’s DNA.
Breakthroughs in synthetic biology, then, require tenacity, and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet while the size of demand for synthetic biology may turn out large and long lasting, projects in it will likely involve only a small scientific workforce. Synthetic biology is a hightech affair, but does not qualify as a major, employment-creating new sector.
In a synthesis of semiconductors and textiles, clothes could be hardwearing but supple and washable electronic interfaces and displays. Perhaps given the ability to clean themselves, electronic clothes could be hooked up to sensors, medical apps and energy devices to make them comfortable companions to the human body, sought after for snowstorms as much as for sweaty buses.
A more serious approach to wearable media than has so far been the case could, if more consciously linked to British fashion and to fashion retailing, usher in a new industry. Fully realised, electronic clothes could go beyond sports and fitness apparel and medical applications, and therefore extend beyond what has been estimated as a global market of $3bn by 2026. (12) Producing electronic garments would also likely be a highly automated business, reliant on impressive budgets for R&D and for design.
However, the durable employment benefits of electronic clothes are more apparent in the Indian subcontinent, where textiles still form a major source of jobs, than in Britain. On this count, electronic clothes might well be a fashion industry initiative that government sponsors, but would not meet the exacting criteria we have laid out for viable new sectors in the UK.
Again in the field of genomics, pharmacogenomics – choosing and dosing prescription drugs according to a person’s genomic variants – has particular promise. Research by Ramy Arnaout and others suggests that it could cut down, for instance, the $80bn that ineffective drug treatments, or adverse side effects, cost the US each year. (13) However, as Arnaout and his colleagues model it, just to draw up guidelines for the effective use of pharmacogenomics over six prescription drugs, plus the statin class of anti-cholesterols, could take 20 years, even if the exercise would likely cost no more than $6bn.
Arnaout and others did not compute the likely cost of implementing pharmacogenetic treatments in the US. Their study covered drugs such as warfarin, as well as the nicotinereplacement patch. It is suggestive not so much of a whole new, job-creating industry, but of an important, still medium- to long-term revision of drug treatments from one-size-fits-all ‘population’ medicine to the personalised sort. After all, one estimate gives the global market for pharmacogenomics as a modest $12bn in 2024, based on a CAGR of 5.7 per cent from 2016 onward. (14)
Pharmacogenomics is a high-tech domain that is likely to be in demand from consumers and government for many years. It will certainly help create fresh scientific talents. But though pharmacogenomics is an important area for government research, and though it might eventually save the NHS a lot of money, it doesn’t qualify as a durable, job-creating new sector capable of making more than a minor difference to the British economy.
Some stronger candidates for new sectors
In China in 2015, the company Broad Sustainable Building assembled a 57-storey, 800apartment high-rise block, complete with 20cm of insulation, quadruple-glazed windows and reputedly the best air quality in China. (15) The time taken to complete this feat? Just 19 days, using prefabrication techniques. (16)
In Britain, Legal & General (L&G) has also shown the potential of mass-manufactured housing. Its new factory in Yorkshire is set to turn out 3,500-4,000 homes a year, each installable within a single working day and with exteriors specified by the homeowner. (17) Made of cross-laminated timber, L&G claims that kitchens, bathrooms, doors, ironmongery, painting and even carpets can all be done in the factory and certified as free of defects.
This is a fine start, but the overall output planned for manufactured homes in the UK is still very small – even an estimate that it accounted for seven per cent of UK house-building by value in 2015 (against up to 15 per cent in Germany and Japan) seems over-optimistic. (18) The Government itself has set a target of one million homes built anew – or converted from non-residential buildings – for England by 2020. (19) But the demand for new homes in the UK is very much higher than this, and conversion from non-residential buildings may prove more difficult than it seems.
To refresh the installed base of British housing means building no fewer than 500,000 new homes a year. (20) At this scale, government intervention to support and extend the efforts of companies such as L&G is more than justified. A serious R&D programme around house manufacturing would mean that the technology now available could be improved. A great number of rain-free jobs could be created, even if on-site work still persists. Output would need to stay at high levels for decades for Britain’s housing stock to be truly modernised. Importantly, cheaper, better, upgradable manufactured homes would not only be competitive with conventional ones: they would put money in workers’ pockets – especially the pockets of first-time buyers. Done right, they could raise community morale.
The precondition for installing millions of homes needs stating baldly: the Green Belt needs to be built on and the land deregulated. If this is done, and if Government can issue Type Approvals for particular (customisable) house designs, then house manufacturers will at last face a dependable, large-scale market, so bringing costs down.
All kinds of process engineering, along with on-shore and offshore energy production, utilities, infrastructure and construction, rely on pipes. In new housing, automated waste collection systems, often relying on pneumatic power, have spread from Europe and Asia to Australia. (21) These are based on pipes. Especially in dry parts of the world, pipes are vital to agriculture. But today’s pipes are often characterised by leaks and poor interfaces (pipe-to-pipe, pipe-to-human). Laying pipes, mapping them and digging them up are a hassle.
A step-change in pipe manufacture, safety and tracking could open important export markets for Britain, on top of domestic demand. Led by companies such as Durapipe and Polypipe, this is currently a rather low-tech business that nevertheless has important responsibilities in relation to health, the environment and flooding.
It would be idle to pretend that pipes will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs: they may only be able perhaps to create 10,000-20,000. Yet, equipped with sensors and the data analytics to support predictive maintenance, the pipes of tomorrow won’t need the dubious adjective ‘smart’ to commend them to business. From sub-sea pipes to pipes for broadband, British business has a great need for pipes, while the country’s existing pipe-makers would undoubtedly benefit from an orientation toward sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things.
Between pharmaceuticals, medical devices and digital health (22)
Nowadays, pharmaceuticals are dispensed, and diagnoses assisted, by all kinds of sophisticated medical devices, whether attached to or puncturing the skin, used to inhale, or inserted inside the body. Like these devices, pills are also being equipped with sensors, while prosthetic fittings are becoming more movable, like parts of an exoskeleton.
The opportunity here is for the Government to support research that fuses Britain’s traditional excellence in pharmaceuticals with its medical devices and IT sectors. Medical device makers in the UK are strong in orthopaedics, imaging, diagnostics and cardiovascular systems. Though it is true that many are foreign owned, these products already provide jobs for perhaps 50,000 people. Meanwhile, one analysis has the global market for medical plastics alone as worth £17bn in 2021, based on a CAGR of 6.2 per cent from 2016 onward. (23) Government backing to increase R&D in medical devices, link it to developments in drug discovery and IT and make UK efforts much more ambitious could perhaps double the number of jobs in this arena.
Given pressures on the NHS, the weighty significance now attached to patient adherence to medical regimens and the trend toward e-health in the home, the demand for medical devices is out there. In terms of the new skills called forth by the consolidation of such a sector, medical devices now drive innovations in sensors. (24)
Toward a New Carbon Infrastructure (25)
Despite the bad press it gets, carbon is in fact a miracle element. It is prominent in cars, flexible and printed electronics, nanotubes, construction, catalysts, healthcare, the chemical industry, artificial fuels, manned space exploration, carbon capture and storage from power plants (CCS) and the capture of CO2 from the air.
To give one example of carbon’s potential: in the case of CCS, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, hope to convert power station emissions into a new kind of concrete that can replace cement. (26) Here is a material whose many applications mean that it still deserves a lot of basic research. At the same time, a UK move from research to commercialisation is vital. For all the money government has put into R&D in carbon-based graphene in particular, few obvious results are apparent.
Recycling carbon on a significant scale, and taking advantage of all the opportunities around it, would lead to the development of a whole new sector. Britain urgently needs to drop its obsessions with minimising carbon footprints, and start maximising the benefits of carbon.
Service robots for older people
In 2015, the world market for every kind of professional service robot was just 41,000 units; these kinds of machines were in aggregate worth less than $5bn. (27) Yet there is a world to play for in service robots.
Britain’s crisis in the care of older people, and the opening that Brexit brings to forge links with relevant robot specialists in Japan, supply two reasons why we can and should expect medical and care workers to work more and more alongside robots in years to come. Of course, a survey in 2012 found that, of more than 25,000 people questioned in the European Union, 60 per cent thought robots that care for children, the elderly and the disabled should be banned outright; and 86 per cent said they would be uncomfortable with one caring for their children or parents. However, many more were relaxed about robotic assistants and surgeons. (28) There are also some tasks, particularly around personal hygiene, that people may prefer robots to perform rather than humans.
Good research on service robots for older people could jump-start a remarkable new sector, very much fitted for UK demographic trends in decades to come.
Labs, prototypes and designs
In its urge to close the gap between brilliant UK boffins and market commercialisation, the Green Paper says (p26): ‘it is striking that in leading innovation nations, such as Israel and countries in Asia, a greater proportion of total R&D investment is on later-stage, experimental development. China, for example, currently spends twice the share of the UK. This may amplify the industrial impact of such countries’ funding commitments to R&D.’
We find the argument here weak, and the examples of Israel and China unconvincing as a prospectus, for Britain, on the right balance between basic and applied research. However, we very much favour, in all the ‘stronger’ candidate new sectors we have proposed, labwork being complemented by early prototypes and design mock-ups.
It makes sense to issue a first-draft description of product features, advantages and benefits early, so that it can be criticised early, and so that critics can take responsibility for changes. (29) Then, it’s wise to use ‘agile’ design processes borrowed from agile software development. Instead of the design team on an innovation project presenting management, in dangerous style, with a fully-finished item as a kind of fait accompli, the emphasis should be on communicating often, within the team, with management and with users, throughout the project – rapidly making a series of rough-and-ready prototypes to prompt discussion, and refining those prototypes iteratively. (30)
As a postscript to this paper’s treatment of new sectors, then, we would uphold government support for enabling technologies in this domain. Such support would aid the commercialisation of innovation.
Relevant enabling technologies here include: lab equipment, digital design modeling and 3D printing. These do not make up a sector in their own right, but should certainly be foregrounded in government programmes aimed at aiding R&D.
The Green Paper’s discussion, in Chapter 8, of the need for Britain to cultivate worldleading sectors has merit. Indeed, while we find the statement that the Government’s Sector Deals are ‘not about the Government providing additional funding’ (p100) something of a cop-out, we agree that such deals should not be ‘confined to existing or traditional industrial sectors’ (p102).
The new sectors this paper has highlighted are certainly not confined in this way. All five of them, and most obviously service robots, will rely on research in IT; among them, only the convergence of pharmaceutical, medical devices and digital health has the slight demerit of combining existing sectors. All five new sectors are germinal enough, too, to benefit from the Challenger Business Programme, particularly given that, as the Green Paper observes (p103), this programme may help overcome the regulatory issues that often affect new sectors.
These new sectors, as we have said, are for debate. The basic and applied research, development and design that they could inspire, along with the relevant institutions and funding mechanisms that could suit best, cannot naively be mapped backwards from them. Experts in the political economy of R&D, in science, engineering, sociology, business finance and design must all be drawn in to the work of deciding the kind of programmes of R&D new sectors make necessary. The general public deserves a full hearing here, too.
But make no mistake. Homes, pipework, medicine based on digital devices, the multiple applications of carbon: these are, like ‘carebots’, sectors founded on major problems that need solving. They, or other new sectors like them, give Britain a chance truly to strike out on a new path – one that will not just raise productivity and employment, but also inject the economy and the population with a new, risk-taking spirit of adventure.
References and notes
1. The classic paean to new industries in the 1930s is HW Richardson, ‘The new industries between the wars’, Oxford Economic Papers, Vol 13, Issue 3,1961, https://academic.oup.com/oep/article-abstract/13/3/360/2360205/THE-NEWINDUSTRIES-BETWEEN-THE-WARS?redirectedFrom=fulltext. This paper and Richardson’s subsequent work on the subject were then subject to criticism that took a more cautious line than Richardson on the benefits of the new industries to the overall British economy.
2. Belinda Linden, ‘Basic blue skies research in the UK: Are we losing out?’, Journal of Biomedical Discovery and Collaboration, Vol 3 No 3, 29 February 2008, on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2292148/pdf/1747-5333-3-3.pdf.
3. Julius H. Comroe Jr., ‘What makes the sky blue?’, American Review of Respiratory Disease, Vol 113, No 2, 1 February 1976, www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/arrd.19220.127.116.11.
4. ‘Principles, not models’, Big Potatoes, 2010, http://www.bigpotatoes.org/2010/03/03_principlesnotmodels/.
5. ‘Herman Kahn – the forecaster as think-tank’, Woudhuysen.com, first published in Design, July 1982, http://www.woudhuysen.com/herman-kahn-forecaster/.
6. George M. Church, Michael B. Elowitz, Christina D. Smolke, Christopher A. Voigt and Ron Weiss, ‘Realizing the potential of synthetic biology’, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 12 March 2014, http://ai2-s2pdfs.s3.amazonaws.com/58a1/cfe06fb92379051ef4a495905f968a4f6b13.pdf.
7. David Jullesson, Florian David, Brian Pfleger and Jens Nielsen, ‘Impact of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering on industrial production of fine chemicals’, Biotechnology Advances, 33 (2015) 1395–1402, 26 February 2015, http://ac.elscdn.com/S0734975015000361/1-s2.0-S0734975015000361-main.pdf?_tid=64be941e-071c-11e7-b41d-00000aacb35e&acdnat=1489320599_5ba94a7ef35c677ead5aceda5afd200e
8. Zoltán Kis, Hugo Sant’Ana Pereira, Takayuki Homma, Ryan M. Pedrigi and Rob Krams, ‘Mammalian synthetic biology: emerging medical applications’, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 4 March 2015, http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/royinterface/12/106/20141000.full.pdf.
9. ‘Synthetic biology market is expected to reach $38.7 billion, globally, by 2020 – Allied Market Research’, BioIT World, 25 June 2014, www.bio-itworld.com/Press-Release/Synthetic-Biology-Market-is-Expected-to-Reach-$38-7-Billion,-Globally,-by-2020–Allied-Market-Research/.
10. ‘Synthetic biology market worth $5,630.4 Million by 2018’, Market and Markets, November 2014, www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/synthetic-biology.asp.
11. Rainer Breitling and Eriko Takano, ‘Synthetic biology advances for pharmaceutical production’, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 2015, 35, pp46–51, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0958166915000233.
12. James Hayward, ‘Are e-textiles on the cusp of rapid growth?’, IDTechEx, 6 January 2016, http://www.idtechex.com/research/articles/are-e-textiles-on-the-cusp-of-rapid-growth-00008889.asp.
13. Ramy Arnaout, Thomas P. Buck, Paulvalery Roulette, Vikas P. Sukhatme, ‘Predicting the cost and pace of pharmacogenomic advances: an evidence-based study’, Clinical Chemistry, Vol 59, Issue 4, April 2013.
14. Chris Smith, ‘Global pharmacogenomics market Is expected to reach USD 11.94 Bn By 2024’, pdf devices, 2 March 2017, www.pdfdevices.com/pharmacogenomics-market/.
15. Lloyd Alter, ‘Broad Sustainable Building completes world’s tallest prefab, 57 stories’, TreeHugger, 9 March 2015, www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/broad-sustainablebuilding-completes-57-story-tower-building-3-floors-day.html.
16. Jamil Anderlini, ‘Zhang Yue, CEO, Broad Group – China’s flat-pack skyscraper tycoon’, Financial Times, 21 November 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/28e22386-a11c-11e6891e-abe238dee8e2.
17. Legal & General Homes, ‘Our product’, https://www.legalandgeneral.com/modular/ourproduct/.
18. Engineering consultancy Arcadis, quoted in Esha Vaish, ‘Builders turn to bolt-together homes in Brexit Britain’, Reuters, 9 March 2017, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britaineu-construction-insight-idUKKBN16G1DC.
19. Neil Merrick, ‘Statsbuster – housebuilding in England 2016’, LocalGov, 27 February 2017, www.localgov.co.uk/Statsbuster–Housebuilding-in-England-2016/42622.
21. Tony Moore, ‘Queensland’s waste collection of the future to suck rubbish underground’, Brisbane Times, 21 September 2016, www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queenslands-waste-collection-of-the-future-tosuck-rubbish-underground-20160921-grlixw.html.
22. For more on this, see ‘Convergence between pharmaceuticals, medical devices and digital health’, Woudhuysen.com, first published in Blueprint, September 2016, http://www.woudhuysen.com/drugs-devices-and-digital-media/.
23. Medical plastics: technologies and global markets, Research and Markets, February 2017, www.researchandmarkets.com/research/htbt85/medical_plastics.
24. Tomoko Fujiwara, ‘Medical devices are driving innovations in sensors’, NewElectronics, 7 March 2017, www.newelectronics.co.uk/electronics-technology/medical-devices-aredriving-innovations-in-sensors/152461/.
26. George Foulsham, ‘Researchers turn carbon dioxide into sustainable concrete’, Phys.org, 15 March 2016 https://phys.org/news/2016-03-carbon-dioxide-sustainable-concrete.html.
27. International Federation of Robotics, ‘Executive summary world robotics 2016 service robots’, www.ifr.org/fileadmin/user_upload/downloads/World_Robotics/2016/Executive_Summary_Service_Robots_2016.pdf.
28. Aviva Rutkin, ‘Why granny’s only robot will be a sex robot’, New Scientist, 8 July 2016, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2096530-why-grannys-only-robot-will-be-a-sexrobot/.
29. David Griffin, ‘In praise of “Aunt Sally’’’, 42 Technology News, Issue 21, August 2016, http://www.42technology.com/news/.
30. Luke Clum, ‘Understanding agile design and why it’s important’, design shack, 19 June 2013, https://designshack.net/articles/business-articles/understanding-agile-design-andwhy-its-important/.
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Innovators I like
Robert Furchgott – discovered that nitric oxide transmits signals within the human body
Barry Marshall – showed that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is the cause of most peptic ulcers, reversing decades of medical doctrine holding that ulcers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and too much acid
N Joseph Woodland – co-inventor of the barcode
Jocelyn Bell Burnell – she discovered the first radio pulsars
John Tyndall – the man who worked out why the sky was blue
Rosalind Franklin co-discovered the structure of DNA, with Crick and Watson
Rosalyn Sussman Yallow – development of radioimmunoassay (RIA), a method of quantifying minute amounts of biological substances in the body
Jonas Salk – discovery and development of the first successful polio vaccine
John Waterlow – discovered that lack of body potassium causes altitude sickness. First experiment: on himself
Werner Forssmann – the first man to insert a catheter into a human heart: his own
Bruce Bayer – scientist with Kodak whose invention of a colour filter array enabled digital imaging sensors to capture colour
Yuri Gagarin – first man in space. My piece of fandom: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/10421
Sir Godfrey Hounsfield – inventor, with Robert Ledley, of the CAT scanner
Martin Cooper – inventor of the mobile phone
Thomas Tuohy – Windscale manager who doused the flames of the 1957 fire
Eugene Polley – TV remote controls
George Devol – 'father of robotics’ who helped to revolutionise carmaking