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Fundamental research can drive economic growth

University research will be at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, Imperial’s President Alice Gast has told the World Economic Forum.

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) begins in Davos, Professor Gast has written a blog showing how the fourth industrial revolution – the idea that almost anyone can invent new products and services quickly and cheaply, thanks to technological advances – is underpinned by blue skies academic research.

“As the boundaries blur between the cyber and physical worlds, we have the potential for greater economic growth, new innovations and a better way of life. This ‘fourth industrial revolution’ could transform our lives, but only if fundamental research is embedded at its core.”
Professor Alice Gast President
Imperial College London

“While the integration of big data, interconnected sensors and machines with additive manufacturing processes may be driving this revolution, private sector R&D cannot do this alone. Businesses are inevitably geared towards short and medium-term applications. Underpinning this fourth industrial revolution is fundamental research led by universities.”

She said that: “Universities provide the crucible for completely new areas of science and technology to emerge, like biomedical engineering, data science and synthetic biology; and the business opportunities will follow.”

The full blog, which cites the work of Imperial researchers including John Pendry, Guang-Zhong Yang and Neil Alford can be viewed on the World Economic Forum Agenda website.