Memorandum submitted by the Chemical Industries
The Chemical Industries Association (CIA) is
the major body representing the UK chemical and allied industries.
The Association is also the industry's National Training Organisation
(NTO) and, in conjunction with The Association of the British
Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), runs the sector's Awarding Body
for National Vocational Qualifications.
The chemical industry has always been strongly
dependent upon research and technological innovation for its competitiveness,
and it will need to be even more so in the future in the face
of stiffening global competition. The academic science base, which
provides both skilled manpower and leading-edge research expertise,
is a vital resource for the industry.
The CIA thus regards this consultation to be
of high importance. A comprehensive review of the extent to which
the measures and objectives outlined in the 1993 White Paper have
been delivered, their impact on the management and performance
of science and technology, and whether the structures it specified
are still appropriate, is timely.
We hope that our comments will be given the
appropriate consideration since the CIA represents a sector of
industry which constitutes one of the largest users and sponsors
of scientific and technical research within academe. In 1997,
the industry invested £2.8 billion in R&D. We estimate,
based upon research performed within the CIA membership, that
approximately 4.7 per cent of this investment is channeled into
universities (some £132 million, annually).
We have chosen to submit comments based on the
following broad themes which the consultation paper encompasses:
3. Council for Science and Technology.
5. SME's and Innovation Support Programmes.
7. Creation of the post of Director General
of the Research Councils.
8. Campaign to spread understanding of science
amongst school children and the public.
Our comments on all these issues are set out
The CIA believes that perspectives in national
science policy and strategy have improved as a consequence of
the 1993 Science White Paper "Realising our potential"
crystallising discussion on strategy
and policy relating to science, engineering and technology (SET)
resulting in some important initiatives
such as Forward Look, Technology Foresight, technology transfer
schemes, and innovation support programmes for SME's;
ensuring that the Research Councils,
especially the EPSRC, are more responsive and flexible to the
needs of industry, including the demands set by the rapid pace
of change in SET; and
providing a sense of purpose to both
the public and private sector on the importance of SET in a knowledge-driven
economy to ensure UK competitiveness in the context of a global
More specifically, we feel that:
Forward Look should be an annual
publication seeking to match Government expenditure figures on
R&D and the SET base to policy objectives and the achievements
(or the lack) of departmental science strategies;
Foresight, including the "Knowledge
Pool", should be properly resourced, its findings should
be communicated to the wider community, and that it should be
a central feature in a coherent Government strategy on the SET
the Council for Science and Technology
must increase its profile and transparancy, especially in industry,
and stress the importance of joined-up thinking on issues facing
SET across Government;
the Government must fund more demonstrator
projects, a key step in technology transfer, as well as tackle
barriers such as the Research Assessment Exercise which can hinder
collaboration between industry and academe;
the myriad of Government funded research
and innovation support schemes, not funding levels, for both SME's
and academe should be reduced to a select few. The Government
should also ensure that innovation policy does not become too
pre-occupied with SME's, thereby ignoring the needs of their larger
the Research Councils should continue
to be more receptive to the needs of industry, embrace a closer
working relationship with each other, and promote career progression
for fixed-term research staff as well as increase the funds allocated
to PhD students;
the appointment of the Director General
of the Research Councils has helped to co-ordinate their activities,
thereby ensuring that their approach is synergistic, strategic,
visionary and cost effective;
the Government must re-direct its
efforts to helping improve the perceptions of the risks associated
with science rather than focusing soley on the public understanding
of science. Its current campaign to spread the understanding of
science has had little, if any, positive impact in society;
the Government must continue to invest
in the science base, increase public expenditure on R&D activitiesthe
current decline should be reversed, and improve the reward and
remuneration structure associated with a scientific and a teaching
the Government must ensure that the
forthcoming White Paper on "Science and Innovation Strategy"
is holistic, promoting strategies and policies which are practical,
and readily achievable.
1. FORWARD LOOK
The annual publication of Forward Look has developed
significantly since its inception, and it provides an excellent
synopsis of Government's strategies for science, engineering and
The statistical summaries of various Government
departmental budgets have proven to be particularly useful in
influencing the key objectives of science policy across Government,
and we support its continuance as an annual publication. However,
Forward Look should seek to match expenditure figures more specifically
to policy objectives and the achievement (or the lack) of departmental
Finally, we welcome and agree with the conclusions
and recommendations made by the recent House of Common Science
and Technology Committee's report on "Government Expenditure
on Research and Development: The Forward Look", published
on 19th April 2000.
The creation of Technology Foresight (now Foresight)
is an important development arising from the 1993 White Paper
it offers an unrivalled networking
opportunity, thereby helping to improve communication, interaction
and mutual understanding between Government, industry and academa;
it has served as an excellent platform
for participants to think constructively, critically and imaginatively
about future economic, social and technological implications and
it has been an important catalyst
for many companies in the chemicals industry to evaluate and enhance
their industrial R&D priorities, and to influence and initiate
change in their business strategies, by developing strategic vision
through the use of the outputs from the 1st Foresight round.
Although the CIA enthusiastically supports Foresight,
and we remain committed to its principles, there are a number
of issues which are of concern to us. These include:
a large proportion of individuals,
especially from academe, have either never heard of Foresight
or have never been exposed to its outputs due to the lack of dissemination
of information from the 1st Foresight round;
many small and medium enterprises
(SME) have not directly benefited from Foresight since the majority
tend to do little, if any, long-term strategic planning;
there is still an immense scepticism
about the value of Foresight due to the lack of persuasive evidence
of the benefits associated with it since many of them tend to
Foresight is extremely effective in identifying
opportunities and threats but it has yet to galvanise the efforts
required to arrive at solutions to any problems identified.
there is a general perception that
Government departments still do not consider themselves to be
one of the principal audiences for Foresight, especially in the
analysis of issues, and in the subsequent delivery and implementation
of policy from a practical perspective;
there is little evidence of developing
coherence in science and innovation policy across Government as
a consequence of the Foresight programmes. However, we hope that
the forthcoming Science and Innovation White Paper will help resolve
On a more positive note, the recommendations
from the 1st round of Foresight have been used by the Research
Councils to help shape their programmes, and we hope that this
the current round of Foresight is
almost invisible, and the much publicised "Knowledge Pool"
has yet to deliver any tangible rewards.
One of the reasons behind this is
the lack of proper resources and variable support given to Foresight
by the Office of Science and Technology. We believe that without
greater Government commitment, the present round of Foresight
will not realise its full potential.
Foresight also needs to be more targeted
rather than "all encompassing" with the result that
it may cover nothing adequately.
Overall, we believe that Foresight should be
a central feature in a coherent Government strategy on science
engineering and technology (SET), influencing government policy
on issues such as expenditure of the science budget, and promoting
the progress of the SET base.
3. COUNCIL FOR
We do not feel competent enough to comment on
the wisdom of abolishing the Advisory Council on Science and Technology
and replacing it with the Council for Science and Technology (CST).
However, its successor has appeared to be largely invisible since
its inception. Although, we are unable to comment on the impact
of its activities on influencing Government's own research spending,
we note with some concern that this is sadly in decline.
We believe that a body like the CST does have
an important role to play in the strategic overview of science
and innovation issues, but it must be more transparent in its
activities. Recent Government initiatives have delivered a framework
of policies promoting innovation, but any advisory body on science
and innovation strategy must stress:
the importance of joined-up thinking
raise the general awareness of the
importance of research and innovation in the context of a global
promote an effective and supportive
taxation regime for R&D activities;
ensure that legislation promoting
R&D, not hindering it, is created such as a strong patent
We welcome the Government's desire for supporting
technology transfer initiatives between the science and engineering
base and industry, and we believe that this is an extremely important
activity in the knowledge-driven economy, and for UK competitiveness.
However, and worryingly, the proposed interchange
of ideas, skills, know-how and knowledge has yet to fully materialise.
Although the Research Councils have encouraged greater industrial
involvement in their projects, LINK has been maintained and bodies
like the Institute of Applied Catalysis have been created, these
form only a very small microcosm of ventures which are needed
to help improve industry and academe collaborations.
To date, many powerful barriers exist which
still tend to prevent the desired change in attitudes to collaboration.
the Research Assessment Exercise;
the reluctance of acadame to work
in an interdisciplinary manner;
the attitude of some Industrial Liaison
the lack of appreciation of intellectual
property rights by academe;
the lack of funds to undertake demonstrator
projects which often are a key step in technology transfer.
The recent initiative entitled "Higher
Education Reach Out to Business and the Community (HEROBIC) is
a welcome experiment on promoting technology transfer. However,
funds allocated to it are very limited. We believe that these
types of schemes should be actively pursued and properly funded
by government, especially when they can be strategically integrated
with other collaborative links promoted by different government
Although, the 1993 White Paper has created the
momentum to explore new approaches to knowledge transfer, more
needs to be done to ensure successful integration of novel and
"blue sky" ideas from academe into industry by:
Increased but targeted funding for
More technology incubator programmes.
Emphasising the importance of developing
relationships between established innovative firms and academe,
and not just focusing on spin-offs from academe.
Promoting diversity and creativity
in the workforce (by encouraging greater recruitment from outside
the UKeither from Europe or elsewhere).
Emulating the successful US-based
Small Business Innovation Grants Scheme.
Overall, the conversion of technologies and
ideas, emanating from the UK science base, into innovative products
and processes, are vital for the future success of the chemicals
and allied industries in the UK.
5. SMES AND
The Government has made significant progress
on improving the access for small and medium-sized enterprises
to innovation support programmes. For example, the Specialised
Organic Chemicals Sector Association (SOCSA), which was created
in 1993 as a part of the CIA, has definitely benefited from some
of these initiatives. It has been able to access funds for projects
in areas of pre-competitive, under-pinning science such as applied
catalysis, process engineering and analytical science.
Furthermore, the recently announced tax incentives
for SME's to undertake R&D are a positive sign of the Government's
commitment to help companies invest in innovation, and this is
warmly welcomed by the CIA. However, much more needs to be done
in this area and the Government must not be complacent. In addition,
we still have a number of concerns relating to innovation support
programmes, and these are:
The myriad of Government schemes,
which are currently in operation, on supporting research and innovation
for SME's (and within academe), needs to rationalised to a select
few. We believe that a reduction in the number of initiatives
(not the funding levels) is warranted.
Innovation policy can become too
pre-occupied with SME's and start-up companies, and therefore
ignores the needs of their larger industrial counterparts. Many
of these now tend to operate as small business units, and play
an important role in the knowledge-driven economy. The emphasis
purely on SME's can also lead to some confusion in the objectives
of innovation and employment policy.
The lack of access to academe is
still cited as a major issue for SME's within the chemicals sector,
although SOCSA has provided some help in this endeavour.
Overall, we believe the 1993 White Paper has
had a positive impact in ensuring that the Government understands
the needs of SME's, especially from economic, regulatory and social
6. RESEARCH COUNCILS
The re-organisation of the Research Councils
with modified management structures, as a consequence of the 1993
White Paper, has been broadly positive.
The current move towards encouraging interdisciplinarity,
greater co-ordination between the Research Councils on related
activities, alignment of projects with those of the findings of
Foresight, the creation of peer review pools, recognising the
importance of consulting the wider community (in particular industry)
on their research needs before embarking on specific and targeted
programmes, and their increased enthusiasm to collaborate with
industry, are to be applauded.
However, there are still a number of issues
which need to be resolved. These are:
Each of the different Research Councils
tend to operate via their own criteria and modus operandi.
For example, the EPSRC dispenses industrial CASE awards whilst
with the BBSRC you have to bid for them.
We believe that a commonality of
approach should be implemented across all the Research Councils
as soon as possible.
It is vital to ensure that a correct
balance is struck between the managed and responsive mode funding
The continuing difficulties in providing
career progression for fixed-term research staff and post-doctoral
research workers, and properly funding PhD students needs to be
assessed and positive solutions developed.
In this regard, we welcome EPSRC's
proposal or greater flexibility in support of doctoral-level training,
and we hope that they will develop flexible funding schemes to
support young researchers early on their scientific careers in
Overall, we feel that the changes which have
been undertaken by the Research Councils, especially the EPSRC,
will help to promote wealth creation and improve the quality of
life in the United Kingdom. We certainly look forward to working
more closely with them in the future since their outputs, both
in terms of trained scientists/engineers and research projects,
are extremely vital to the success of the UK chemicals industry.
7. CREATION OF
We welcome the creation of the post of the Director
General of the Research Councils and the absorption of the functions
of the Advisory Board of the Research Councils into the Office
of Science and Technology.
This has been an essential appointment to help
co-ordinate the activities of all the Research Councils, thereby
ensuring that that their approach is synergistic, strategic, visionary
and cost effective. We believe that it is vital that the post-holder
should be an individual with solid industrial experience who has
an appreciation of the importance of pure and applied research
to industry and an understanding of the needs of academe.
8. CAMPAIGN TO
Understanding of Science: the general public
The launch of a campaign to spread the understanding
of science has had little, if any, positive impact amongst the
public-at-large. Our own surveys, conducted by MORI, suggests
that it is trust and perceptions of risks rather than public understanding
of science that are the real issues to address. In our surveys,
there is no positive correlation between a formal science education
and favourability towards the chemicals industry.
We feel that one possible reason may be that
policy makers and scientists are often wrong in the predilection
for promoting a desired message rather than engaging the public
in scientifically informed debate. Their messages should be tailored
to combating their genuine concerns and lack of understanding
We recognise that this is a complex issue, whereby
any gains made in developing a trust in and acceptance of science
can be easily lost if the community-at-large feels underestimated,
threatened or coerced. Therefore, we support the view that it
is the responsibility of scientists, in academe/government/industryin
both the public and private sectorsto work together in
order to re-establish public trust, enunciate the benefits and
discuss potential concerns derived from research and development
activities in an impartial and honest manner.
The chemicals sector is certainly keen to complement
the work of Government and academe to promote science, including
its importance to society, by engaging in debate with NGO's and
other stakeholders of the role of chemicals, the chemicals industry,
and of science in general, in an informed and sensitive manner.
Understanding of Science: school children
We strongly believe that science should remain
an essential element of the national curriculum at both primary
and secondary level so that school children can have some appreciation
of its importance in the modern world.
The Dual Science GCSE (DSG) can play an important
role in influencing the up-take of science at A-level by young
students. A negative experience of DSG can easily discourage pupils
from undertaking science at higher level. We are also concerned
about the value of DSG as an effective preparatory tool for those
who wish to study natural sciences at A-level. We feel that the
Government should examine its worth compared to the merits of
studying individual science subjects separately at GCSE.
Young individuals who train as scientists and
engineers are the key to the future vision of a knowledge-driven
economy in the UK, and although, we applaud the various Government
schemes relating to improving science education, there are significant
and fundamental challenges which still need to be addressed. These
the poor reward and remuneration
associated with a scientific and a teaching career;
the lack of infrastructure investments
at both schools and universities;
the general view that science has
no future in the UK.
The lack of up-take of science courses can also
be attributed to these issues. We believe that it is vital for
both government and industry to work together in tackling these
areas of concern.
The wider public appreciation and understanding
of science has probably been the least successful aspect of the
1993 White Paper. The image of science still remains poor, further
damaged by the BSE crisis, the GMO issue and other reports in
the press which have dented the public trust in it. The campaign
to promote science amongst school children and the public (for
example, through Science Week, and the work of the British Association)
also seems to have passed unnoticed.
We recognise that many organisations are making
valuable contributions in this area, but we feel that there needs
to be much greater cohesion of the activities in order to make
a significant impact. The Government has a clear role here by
continuing to publicise the benefits of science, working with
all concerned parties for greater critical mass and to ensure
that science and engineering are in the hearts and minds of the
public in a positive light.
Finally, we would like to add that the recent
House of Lords Science and Technology Committtee Report on "Science
and Society", published on 14 March 2000, makes some excellent
recommendations which we would support. We hope that the Government
will act on its findings, especially those relating to the need
for an open and impartial public debate on the role of science
within society. We also believe that the Higher Education Funding
Councils should give serious and urgent thought to rewarding work
performed in improving the public understanding of science.
The 1993 Science White Paper represents an important
milestone in acknowledging the importance of the science base;
crystallising discussion on strategy and policy relating to SET
expenditure within Government; and providing a sense of purpose
to both the public and private sector on the importance of science
in a knowledge-driven economy.
We believe that perspectives in national science
policy and strategy have improved as a consequence of the 1993
White Paper. For example,
the Research Councils are more receptive
to the needs of industry;
the 1st round of Foresight did help
to identify the importance of partnerships between industry an
evaluation and the impact of R&D
activities has now become the norm;
scientists are more ready to acknowledge
and address public expectations/concerns of science issues, as
well as countering the effect of negative reporting by the media
on the SET base;
concerns (and action needed) are
openly expressed about the decline in public funding of research
and development, including the decay in research infrastructure,
employer difficulties in recruitment and retention of scientists
and the complexities faced in undertaking collaborative ventures
However, although the progress made to-date
is highly welcome, and the themes of the 1993 White Paper are
currently valid, a great deal of work still needs to be done.
We hope that the forthcoming White Paper on "Science and
Innovation Strategy", the broad aims of which the CIA fully
supports, will try and address some of the issues and concerns
which have been identified as a result of the 1993 White Paper.
A copy of the CIA's submission to the DTI's recent consultation
on Science and Innovation Strategy is attached for your information.
We strongly feel that the new White Paper must
present a clear direction, understanding and vision of the UK's
national needs; ensure adequate and long-term funding for the
SET base; and promote and foster a climate where innovation, entrepreneurship
and risk taking is supported and encouraged. In particular, we
believe that the Government should:
take a more holistic view of innovation,
if it is to make any real impact on the UK economy, just like
the Japanese have done so successfully. For example, the marketing
of R&D activities is a key function for generating profits
from innovative products and processes, and it is this that tends
to be lacking in the United Kingdom;
Furthermore, if the UK is still going
to retain a strong chemicals manufacturing base, then innovation
in process technology is as important as investment in new products;
avoid generating false expectations
that have resulted from earlier science policy, and we look forward
to seeing more details in the forthcoming White Paper as to how
their ambitious plans will be translated into both policy and
improving the current and poor image
of the SET base, which is exacerbated by the City's and media's
obsession with companies who are part of the "new" economy,
namely the dot-coms. "Old" but robust and financially
strong industries, such as those in the chemical sector, are no
longer fashionable and perhaps even deemed uncompetitive in comparison
to their new counterparts.
In conclusion, a strong science base is vital
for the UK to continue to be innovative. Stimulating knowledge
transfer schemes, improving the flow of skilled scientists and
engineers into industry is fine, but this only addresses a small
part of the overall jigsaw which needs to be examined.
The UK still retains a high quality science
base, world class in many areas, in spite of government funding
which is poor in relation to our major competitor nations. If
government support for scientific and technical research is not
improved, through better strategic focus and an overall increase
in spend, the UK will lose its position as an attractive base
for research-intensive industry, with severe implications for
prosperity and employment in the future.
We hope that we have identified some of the
issues which the consultation needs to take into consideration
and address. Through its Science, Education and Technology Committee
(SETCOM) the CIA and its member companies welcomes this opportunity
to work closely with the House of Commons Science and Technology
Committee so that the SET base in the United Kingdom can be strengthened,
for the benefit of government, industry and academe.
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