Land of Hope and Technology February 2016 - Page 3

ISSUE 1 Something has changed in Britain It has many advantages, but in recent decades it has often felt as if Britain is a country in terminal decline. The best it can hope for, is to manage that decline, limit the pain, and come out the other end, a shadow of its former self, but without descending into total obscurity. I am happy to announce that this defeatist narrative is wrong. To illustrate my point, let me refer to the most important discovery of the 21st century so far, to occur anywhere in the world. It took place on a Friday night in Manchester. As the beginning of something special, this breakthrough ranks along-side an early 1960s band learning its trade in the Cavern Club, Liverpool; it ranks alongside the origin of a certain theory developed by a bearded Victorian gentleman, evolving in his home in Kent; it ranks alongside the scribblings of a certain playwright from Stratford upon Avon. The breakthrough to which I refer is the isolation of graphene, a one atom thick carbon based super material that could change the world. The story of that discovery illustrates why the UK can lead the world into a new technological revolution. Alas, it also illustrates how wonderful opportunity could turn to dust.