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If we learn together, we'll earn together; NEW pounds 90M QUEST TO STOP BRAIN DRAIN.

Byline: LORRAINE DAVIDSON Scottish Political Editor

SCOTS boffins won a pounds 90million cash windfall yesterday in a desperate bid to stop the "brain drain".

More and more of Scotland's top scientists and inventors are being lured abroad or down south by big money contracts.

But the mass exodus of the brightest and the best has hit the Scots' reputation for producing world renowned scientists and inventors.

The brain drain by Scotland's sought-after experts - dubbed the David Beckhams of the science world - is estimated to cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds.

But Scotland's two top women politicians yesterday unveiled a multi-million pound rescue package which they hope will stem the rising tide of experts flooding across the border or even further afield.

Enterprise Minister Wendy Alexander and Scots Secretary Helen Liddell pledged pounds 90m as a bait to keep young boffins playing for their home team.

Visiting Heriot-Watt University's lab in Edinburgh yesterday, Wendy Alexander said: "The smart Scotland that I want to see will be built on turning the country into a fast learning, high earning nation.

"The top universities I visited in America last week knew of the great research we had locked up in our universities, but they urged us to improve our ability to get those ideas out of the labs and into our industries."

MSPs want our up and coming researchers to add their names to the long list of pioneering Scots whose inventions have changed the world during the last 150 years.

They could follow in the footsteps of Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scot who discovered penicillin.

Or the inventor of television John Logie Baird, who was born and brought up in Helensburgh.

Not forgetting Henry Bell who developed the first steam ship and Alexander Graham Bell who gave us the telephone,

The huge cash commitment has already persuaded at least one young inventor to stay put.

Kilmarnock-based Kevin Mackie was this week celebrating a pounds 100,000 contract to supply hi-tech drum equipment to Japanese giants Yamaha.

Now the entrepreneur hopes he is on his way to his first million with his innovative drum pedal, which he is confident will soon be used by backing bands for the world's biggest music stars, including Madonna.

"These are exciting times in Scotland," said Mackie.

"This is a major breakthrough and the backing people like me are being given by the government is first class."

Politicians have been forced to sit up and take notice after a spate of high profile academic departures.

In recent months Scotland has lost some of its most highly prized experts to universities in England.

Professor John MacBeath, an expert on Education and adviser to Tony Blair, left Strathclyde University for Cambridge last year.

Then metaphysics professor Timothy Williamson bid farewell to Edinburgh to take up a post at Oxford.

And John Broomoe, a former professor of philosophy at St Andrews, has also gone to Oxford.

SCOTTISH academics claim they have missed out because of how funding bodies allocate cash.

But by heading south, they have had access to millions of pounds more to fund their work, better equipment and higher salaries.

The same argument has been used by surgeons and specialists in the NHS.

Scotland's long battle against cancer has suffered because many specialists have been lured to work in England where much higher salaries are on offer.

The extra money announced yesterday will be poured into science and technology labs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Strathclyde universities.

It will be used to support vital work researching experimental drugs to treat killer diseases.

And the extra millions will also help pioneer the development of new technology in a bid to put Scotland on the world invention map once again.

Helen Liddell said: "We need to provide our talented university researchers with the facilities they require.

"This investment will ensure that some of the best scientists in the world will have world- class facilities here in Scotland."

Half the cash is coming from the UK government, with the Scottish Executive matching them pound for pound.

CAPTION(S):

IT'S SCIENCE FRICTION: We don't want to lose another Scottish genius like Alexander Fleming, left
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2001
Words:692
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