Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Natural Environment Research Council


  NERC welcomes The White Paper and the recognition by government that a healthy and vibrant science base is an essential component of a successful knowledge driven economy.

  Chapter 2: Excellence in Science is well balanced in that it addresses the need to attract school children into science, the provision of adequate funds for infrastructure and priority science areas, through to attracting and retaining top researchers in the UK. NERC welcomes the increase in PhD stipend (chapter 2, paragraph 33).

  NERC welcomes government initiatives designed to promote innovation in chapter 3: Opportunities for Innovation. Whereas the emphasis on universities and regions is understandable it should not be forgotten that public sector research establishments are also part of the science base and that industrial sectors transcend regions.

  The Small Business Research Initiative is a new departure for the research councils (chapter 3, paragraph 33). Whereas NERC will endeavour to procure 2.5 per cent of its research from small business, it must be recognised that this will divert resources from universities and NERC research centres.

  NERC welcomes chapter 4: Confident Consumers. The move towards more openness and transparency is essential. NERC is taking steps to ensure its decision making processes are more transparent and now works on the presumption that information should be open rather than confidential. NERC has also revised its science and society strategy with a view to developing a more consultative approach about priorities.


  The process and outcome of the Science Budget should encourage greater cross-research council working, which we welcome.

  The increased Science Budget to NERC resulting from SR2000 is welcome. However it will not allow us to meet all of our current priorities. Some difficult decisions lie ahead. Although NERC will continue to fund the very best research through its responsive mode funding stream, it recognises the need for strategic research targeted at specific areas. NERC will play a full role in delivering SR2000 priorities relating to the genome, e-science and basic technologies. It will promote cross research council approaches to these and other areas including technology for sustainability and energy. The speed at which NERC can deliver on new programmes is limited by the ability to recycle funds from existing activities. The Council is actively looking at ways to increase our financial flexibility.

9 January 2001

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