The role of physics in supporting economic growth and national productivity in Scotland

In an uncertain economic climate, it is more important than ever for Scotland to focus efforts on areas that can be relied upon to deliver results.

Physics is just such one of those areas.

Scotland has long punched above its weight when it comes to physics: it is home to many internationally leading researchers and plays key roles in a number of major international collaborations.

And it serves as a base for numerous businesses that have built significant success on physics knowledge and technologies.

The work presented here from the Centre for Economic and Business Research is the most comprehensive analysis yet undertaken of the role of physics in growth and productivity in Scotland. It demonstrates something that we always suspected: physics is not just the source of inventions and ideas, but also the means by which the country’s economic future can be secured.

The data show that physics-based industries – by which we mean those that are critically dependent on physics knowledge and expertise – have huge impact, creating lots of jobs and impressive levels of productivity.

But the economic prosperity that physics brings does not happen without the continued support of the education, research and skills systems. The strength of physics-based business in Scotland is built on past investment in cutting-edge physics, and we know that it is often the basic, curiosity-driven research of today that inspires and underpins the applications and technologies of tomorrow.

If Scotland wants to continue to have a high-technology, high-productivity, high-prosperity economy in the future then it must continue to invest in physics today – in schools, research, higher and further education, and in the businesses that thrive on the fruits of physics.

The Institute of Physics is working with communities across the country to ensure that the benefits of physics are maintained and the investments necessary for this are secured.

We will continue to strive to demonstrate the value of physics to those that hold the purse strings, encouraging them to strengthen physics and secure a bright future for us all.

The analysis we present here will inform that push.

Download the report