This piece by Michael Hayman originally appeared in City A.M, see here
Generations become defined by their obsessions, but it is often only after the event that the nature of those obsessions become clear and their consequences easier to understand.
The historical bread crumb trail revealing what should have seemed obvious at the time and with them opportunities lost.
But sometimes we live through periods of such magnitude that the signals are loud and clear. The pandemic is one of those technicolour moments in time and it will shape our thinking and actions for decades to come.
Another such moment occurred for the generation emerging victorious from World War II. The immediate obsession was food. I vividly remember having my grandparents ration book as part of a childhood box of curiosities.
And it was no treasured artefact. Tossed into the toys of another generation with little regard for its wear and tear.
For the card was not only how a generation was legally compelled to feed itself, it was also a much loathed reminder of how a nation narrowly avoided starving.
That it was to take a further nine years from the end of the war before Britain ended rationing goes some way in understanding the nature of the plight. And why decades later the quest to never starve again was still the centrepiece of the European Union’s Common Agriculture Policy.
And if food security was the driving goal then, health security has become ours now. And it will go on to define us.
With the milestone of 15 million inoculations delivered last week, the UK has set the pace not just for jabs but for the pace of things to come.
The Prime Minister, it is said, is often heard to quote the Roman statesman Cicero’s maxim that “the health of the people is the supreme law.”
Earlier in the pandemic that proved a hard thing to deliver. Not least because the country found itself ill equipped on two crucial fronts.
Firstly, overall public health levels were much lower than they needed to be and secondly that the innovation infrastructure required was simply not in place in anything like the way needed to meet the stressful needs of the moment.
What happened next, especially on the innovation agenda, will go down as the story of the age. A vaccine delivered in under a year and a population vaccinated in months.
It leads to the first tantalising prospects of how we might emerge from this defining experience and what our preoccupations for the future will be.
Be prepared might be the motto of the Scouts but it could also become that of the post-Corona generation.
Practically that will mean unparalleled levels of investment in health not only for vaccines but across the medical spectrum. The goal of resilient health a mission that could well become defining.
Stand ready to see the network of UK Lighthouse Labs ever expanded to become vast citadels of science with the express purpose of ensuring the world is never so ill exposed again.
And its effects will most likely be society wide. The continued sight of scientists on TV screens as the sages of our age transforming the image of STEM subjects amongst the young.
And the public health agenda will become ever more focussed on technologically driven solutions for intervention, which will transform our relations with hospitals and GPs.
It is also likely to find new impetus in the creation of an ever more powerful and investable healthtech category. Already standing second to only fintech as a subset of UK tech, it will evolve to be more central and critical in addressing healthcare innovation challenges.
In its wake well-being as an essential human right. An expectation of what good government delivers in its duties and what its citizenry has the right to expect.
And while our obsession with health security is born from the misery of the pandemic it could go on to become one of the defining opportunities of our lifetime.