Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Environment Agency
The Environment Agency submitted evidence in
June 2000 to the Science & Technology Committee's inquiry
into "Are We Realising Our Potential?" This additional
memorandum is submitted in response to the further invitation
to submit evidence, commenting on the new Science & Innovation
White Paper on the Science Budget.
Comments on six issues are set out below. The
first three relate to areas of concern addressed in the Agency's
earlier evidence. Comments are made on the extent to which the
White Paper meets those concerns. The latter three are additional
issues arising from the White Paper.
2. BRIDGING THE
Our earlier evidence indicated that there are
a number of constraints to achieving effective team-working between
organisations in the science, engineering and technology (SET)
base and public sector organisations like the Agency that use
the research. The White Paper appropriately recognises the need
to strengthen the links in the chain of innovation in the UK and
the need to embrace each stage of the innovation cycle. It is
essential that users, researchers and others involved in the R&D
chain work together to address the weakest links.
The difficulties experienced in financing the
development and demonstration stages of the innovation cycle,
as discussed in our earlier evidence, are recognised in the White
Paper. The funding initiatives described in chapter 3, for example
the higher education innovation fund, the extension to the university
challenge competition and Faraday partnerships should provide
a welcome boost to key development activities. It will be important
to monitor the effectiveness of these initiatives, taking particular
account of feedback from industry and public sector organisations.
The White Paper points to the need for a diversity
of excellence in universities, including both research excellence
and knowledge transfer (chapter 3, paragraph 6). Our previous
evidence expressed some concern that a focus solely on scientific
excellence, particularly as measured by the number of scientific
publications, as the basis for funding of academic institutions
could be counter-productive in respect of promoting close relationships
with industry and end-users. It is therefore encouraging that
guidance for the next Research Assessment Exercise indicates that
equal weight should be given to basic and strategic research done
in confidence for business, alongside papers published in peer
The White Paper appropriately emphasises the
need to encourage universities and public sector research establishments
to develop mechanism for the effective exploitation of their intellectual
property. The Agency has commented separately on the Government
consultation on its response to the Baker Report on these issues.
A particular concern is the proposed presumption in favour of
the ownership of intellectual property residing with the contractor
in respect of research sponsored by non-departmental public bodies.
The Agency considers that this assignment of rights could be counter-productive.
11 January 2001