R&D in the UK
I have an advantage over you lot - I am a paid scientist in a large UK commercial company.
Here are my observations in case anyone reads them.
The University sector in the UK is extremely good, in the US it is much better. European universities are no where in comparison.
UK academics are foolishly smug.
A great deal of the research undertaken in UK universities is total cock. The peer reviewers know it is going no where - in the sense that not only will it never impact on the life of the people who are paying for it, or the lives of their children, but it will never be of interest to the other people working in the field beyond the narrow community that the proposing team and the reviewing team are working on. This could be fixed by building larger teams (3 per key subject area in the UK) and funding them to do what they want and allowing them to be publically humiliated if their research is poor. This is how good science actually should work, the peer reveiw process is much better than the government deciding, but I say use it once every 5 or 10 years to decide on who does what in a general area (for example PEV research or AI or Software Engineering) and then leave the PI's to spend the f'ing money how they see fit. If they screw up and don't create and maintain a team that is recognised as *the best* in *the world* then they can *get lost* and *find something else to do*
The EPSRC and other colleges are parochial and provincial; they cannot be relied on.
My belief is that if this was done the 3 or so teams in each area would forge strong links with UK industry and would produce genuinely high quality work - driven by curiosity and a deep and developed understanding of what is important.
It takes 10 years, at least, to get good at something - R&D is no exception. The problem in the UK is that we are not building a system that can provide that time and then exploit the result to the full.