Civil science policy in British industrial reconstruction, 1942-51
During the Second World War science came to play a large role in the British government's plans for postwar reconstruction of industry. The planners sought to improve industry's labour productivity and capacity for RandD. They drew on the consensus which had developed among scientists, industrialists and politicians favouring a great increase in state aid to universities and industrial RandD and increased government direction of research. The postwar Labour government, impressed with scientists' contributions to the war effort and faced with grave economic difficulties, was eager to enlist science in raising industrial output. By 1951, however, it had implemented few new programmes in this area. More money was being spent on the pre-existing Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and industry's co-operative Research Associations; the universities had doubled their output; the National Research and Development Corporation had begun in 1949; some publicity campaigns had raised public awareness of productivity's significance; and the economy, in the postwar boom, was performing much better than prewar. But overall the Attlee government did much less to raise industry's scientific level than it had planned. Almost every new programme was inadequately funded and staffed, and the few which survived had no realistic chance of reaching into individual factories to achieve the scientific renaissance which was necessary to return Britain to the front rank, by international standards, of innovation and industrial performance. The thesis examines that portion of civil science policy which aimed to improve industrial RandD and productivity, from the planning stage during the Coalition through implementation by the Attlee government. After an introductory chapter, Chapter 2 covers the work of wartime ministerial and official reconstruction committees; party differences and business opposition meant that reforms favouring a greater government role in RandD and industry generally were shelved until postwar. Chapter 3 examines the Attlee government's efforts to improve industrial RandD, particularly the formation of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, a failed attempt to create a British MIT, and several schemes, mostly unavailing, to vitalise DSIR, the RAs and private RandD. Chapter 4 examines postwar productivity policy, particularly the work of the Board of Trade, the scientifically-orientated Committee on Industrial Productivity, various government publicity campaigns, and the Anglo-American Council on Productivity. Chapter 5 briefly sketches post-1951 developments and finds that there has been little basic change in the policies suggested for arresting British industry's technical decline relative to its competitors, despite recurrent disappointment with the results of those policies.