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A Place to Explore

The Medical Research Council took a gamble, Sydney Brenner tells the King's Review, when it funded the Cavendish lab, but today such risky investments are rare.

Rather than going into what he dubs apprenticeships, Brenner says graduate students should formulate an idea and pursue that.

"I strongly believe that the only way to encourage innovation is to give it to the young," Brenner says. "The young have a great advantage in that they are ignorant. Because I think ignorance in science is very important. If you're like me and you know too much you can't try new things."

However, the funding for such ideas just isn't there. "The supporters now, the bureaucrats of science, do not wish to take any risks," he tells the King's Review. "So in order to get it supported, they want to know from the start that it will work. … There's no exploration any more except in a very few places."

At a handful of labs in Singapore, Brenner is attempting to foster just that, though, by providing a space where researchers educated abroad can return to pursue their own ideas.

"So I think you've got to try to do something like that for the young people and if you can then I think you will create. That's the way to change the future," Brenner adds. "Because if these people are successful then they will be running science in twenty years' time."