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The government of the United Kingdom wants to attract more scientists from foreign countries, including China and India, to work in fields such as stem cell research and nanotechnology.

The plans were announced today (17 November) by the UK trade and industry secretary, Patricia Hewitt, who launched Creating Wealth from Knowledge, a five-year strategy aimed at making the UK the most attractive place in the world to do scientific research.

"The global economic map is being redrawn," says Hewitt. "China is becoming one of the world's largest economies; India is producing three million highly skilled graduates a year."

The strategy acknowledges that its success will depend on attracting talent from overseas, but adds: "we must not strip developing countries of their desperately needed skilled workers; we have taken steps — for instance, through the National Health Service ethical recruitment codes of practice — to protect poorer countries [from brain drain]."

However, adds the document, many developing countries also encourage people to emigrate, at least temporarily, as the money they send back to their families is an increasingly important source of export earnings.

The strategy document notes: "the growth of these developing countries creates challenges as well as opportunities". It states that while today, 'low value-added jobs' are being outsourced to developing countries, such nations are increasingly competing with the United Kingdom for more highly skilled work. The report warns that, in future, medical and scientific researchers and university lecturers in the United Kingdom could be competing with those thousands of miles away.

"But Britain is extremely well placed to benefit from this transformation," says Hewitt. "And today we're sending a strong signal to scientists around the world that the UK is the place to come to carry out research in leading edge areas — such as nanotechnology and stem cell research."

Hewitt added that the government would develop new policies to attract and retain foreign PhD students upon completion of their doctorates at UK universities. The strategy also proposes development of a policy towards the recognition of foreign credentials, and means of attracting global entrepreneurial talent and academic expertise to the United Kingdom.

Link to Creating Wealth from Knowledge strategy document

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