It is conventional wisdom that scientific research is crucial to the wealth of nations. This view has influenced political thinking since Vannevar Bush, the MIT computer engineer who coordinated US defense research in World War II, first expounded it in his 1945 book, Science, the Endless Frontier. In it he wrote: “New products and processes are founded on new principles and conceptions which, in turn, are developed by research in the purest realms of science.” This has come to mean that the technological innovations so vital to economic competitiveness frequently depend upon scientific discoveries that usually emerge from the research base fixed firmly in universities, government laboratories and some large corporate organizations. Indeed, the connection of research and development with economic and social advancement is now a political maxim the world's great industrial nations (and those that aspire to greatness) have adopted, although sometimes more in principle than in practice.

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