LONDON—Leaders of Britain’s highly successful doing industry say that reduced government spending on academic research in chemistry, biology and medicine will limit industry’s ability to hire talented people and turn new ideas into profitable products.

Coming from one of Britain’s leading research-based manufacturing businesses, the attack may well influence the Thatcher government as it comes under increased pressure to boost funds for basic research in higher education.

The government has dismissed much of the criticism in recent years from university scientists as the product of narrow self-interest from the academic world. But the results of an informal survey of top executives in the $7 billion pharmaceutical industry, widely regarded as a success both in terms of technological innovation and global marketing, may strike a chord in a government with a strong pro-business philosophy. The drug business in Britain employs roughly 15,000 research and development staff, and spends more than $1...

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