Inventions and Official Secrecy: A History of Secret Patents in the United Kingdom

By T. O'Dell H. | Go to book overview

7
Between the Wars

7.1 A Committee of the Privy Council

The recognition that something might be wrong in the way that British industry had been organizing itself had come quite early in the 1914-18 war. In July 1915 a government paper outlining what the new policy should be for supporting industrial research stated:

It is well known that many of our industries have since the outbreak of war suffered through our inability to produce at home certain articles and materials required in trade processes, the manufacture of which has become localized abroad, and particularly in Germany, because science has there been more thoroughly and effectively applied to the solution of scientific problems bearing on trade and industry and to the elaboration of economical and improved processes of manufacture ( BPP 1914-16 (8005), l. 351).

To remedy this sad situation, the paper proposed that a committee of the Privy Council be set up to deal with expenditure of funds provided by Parliament and, secondly, that a small advisory council be formed, 'composed mainly of eminent scientific men and men actually engaged in industries dependent on scientific research'. This marked the beginning of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), which was to administer the allocation of state funds for research to the universities, industry, and, in rare cases, individuals, for the next fifty years.

The first report from the committee of the Privy Council, in August 1916, suggests that little was being done in the way of government support for research. Grants of only £1,000 or so had been made ( BPP 1916 (8336), viii. 469). By the time of the second report, income had improved, if not expenditure, because the government had set up ' The Million Fund for Trade Research Associations' ( BPP 1917-18 (8718), xi. 531). The idea was to provide a fund of £1 million to be allocated to various branches of industry so that research laboratories could be set up to look at

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Inventions and Official Secrecy: A History of Secret Patents in the United Kingdom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures viii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The First Secret Patent 4
  • 3 - The Secret Patents Act of 1859 19
  • 4 - Towards an Official Secrets Act 35
  • 5 - The Secrets of Two Technical Revolutions 49
  • 6 - Introducing the Examiners 62
  • 7 - Between the Wars 79
  • 2 - The Second World War 95
  • 9 - Making Wartime Procedure Permanent 113
  • 10 - The Last Secret Patent 129
  • List of References 140
  • Index 145
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