U.K. Government To Sell Legendary Spy Shop That Inspired James Bond's Q

High-tech R&D firm is credited with inventing or co-inventing the jet engine, radar, and the liquid crystal display.

The U.K.'s New Labour government is preparing a public offering of the high-tech research and development firm that provided the inspiration for Q—the put upon gadgetry whiz who would fashion cool toys for Ian Fleming's super-spy James Bond.

The government will float QinetiQ Ltd. on the stock market in an offering worth more than $530 million, according to Friday's editions of London papers, including the Daily Mail and The Times. The U.K. government currently holds a 56% stake in the firm. The move would represent the biggest privatization effort since Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour party assumed power in 1997.

QinetiQ, formerly the Defense Research And Evaluation Agency, is credited with inventing or co-inventing a number of technologies that have changed military and civilian life, including the jet engine, radar, and the liquid crystal display. The firm is also involved in leading edge IT research around technologies such as grid computing, enterprise search, and mobile communications.

Some opposition members are criticizing the move, claiming it would jeopardize the U.K.'s national security. "We are in danger of selling off the family jewels to the highest foreign bidder," says Conservative MP Ben Wallace, quoted in the Daily Mail.

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