Scientific Research

– in the House of Commons on 25th April 1944.

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The general outline I have just given did not touch upon one subject which, in its more general aspect, was fully debated in the House last week. I refer to scientific research, particularly to the consistent application of research to methods of production. The taxation aspect of this matter was mentioned in the course of last week's Debate. I am glad that this occasion makes it possible for me to take up that question and, I trust, to make some contribution to the examination of a subject which has always been of the greatest personal interest to me. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President said last week, we ought not to depreciate our own efforts in the field of research. When the time comes, there will indeed be a remarkable story to tell of industrial and applied scientific developments in this war. In the application of research to the problems set to the scientists, we have shown ourselves at least equal to any other belligerent. Industry has responded to the compelling urgency of war, and a magnificent team of research workers has met that urgency.

Research has three aspects. There is the fundamental research of the scientists, whether at the university, or in the laboratories attached to industrial establishments or industrial organisations. Successful research is not a mass product. It does not flow merely from numbers of research workers. It requires an imaginative quality of the mind. Without fundamental research there can be no hope of steady progress, and still less of those strange leaps of the creative intelligence which produce in peace no less than in war some of the most important discoveries. But to industry research has a limited value if it stops at the laboratory. There are two further stages. There is what I might describe as the pilot plant stage, where laboratory results are tried out experimentally on a larger scale. Every industrialist knows that it is a real difficulty to translate the delicate skill of the scientific researcher, and the artificial conditions in which he may have worked, into terms of large-scale production. I believe that in this country we have been, perhaps, slow in developing this essential stage. The next and final stage is the commercial production of the product.

These are the three integral parts of the same creative process. To fail on any one is to fail over the whole. Therefore, in considering the help which taxation policy can give to research, my aim has been to help the whole process. It is, I think, most desirable that industry should know in advance the faxation treatment which will be accorded to research expenditure which is undertaken when hostilities' cease. I propose, therefore, to include provisions on this matter in the forthcoming Finance Bill.