Memorandum submitted by the Office of
Science and Technology
1.1 The Government is grateful for the opportunity
to submit evidence to this Inquiry on two important developments
which have taken place since its first memorandum was prepared:
the publication of the White Paper "Excellence and Opportunitya
science and innovation policy for the 21st century" and the
announcement of the allocation of the Science Budget for the period
2001-02 to 2003-04.
1.2 As the Government noted in its earlier
the 1993 White Paper "Realising our Potential: A Strategy
for Science, Engineering and Technology" was responsible
for many of the mechanisms through which Government delivers its
science policy and there are many encouraging signs that these
mechanisms are working well. The Government believes, however,
that further steps are necessary if the full potential of science
is to be harnessed for the benefit of all. For that reason, "Excellence
and Opportunity" and the anouncement of the Science Budget,
following Spending Review 2000 (SR2000), introduced a comprehensive
package of new measures to keep the UK in the vanguard of world
science and will provide a solid foundation for building a dynamic
1.3 Section 2 of this memorandum describes
the way in which the range of commitments given in "Excellence
and Opportunity" are being taken forward and Section 3 explains
the basis for the recent allocation of the Science Budget. Section
4 comments on a number of specific issues relating to both "Excellence
and Opportunity" and the Science Budget which the Committee
has raised directly with the Office of Science and Technology.
These include the purpose of "Excellence and Opportunity",
and the process leading to the allocation of the Science Budget,
including SR2000 and "the Cross Cutting Study of Science
Research and Funding".
2.1 "Excellence and Opportunity"
focuses on investment in scientific excellence, increasing opportunities
for innovation and providing a basis for public trust in science,
with 10 agendas for action:
1. Better Science in Schools.
2. Enhancing Scientific Excellence.
3. Acting on Foresight 2000.
4. People and Skills.
5. Universities in the Knowledge Driven Economy.
6. Innovation in Every Region.
7. Government Departments Encouraging Innovation.
8. Making the Most of Our Intellectual Property.
9. Linking in to Global Networks.
10. Creating Confidence.
2.2 In keeping with the open approach taken
in developing the White Paper, the Government has published an
Implementation Plan which explains how the commitments are being
taken forward. The Plan is available on the OST website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/ost/whatsnew/.
It provides a roadmap indicating the mechanisms, timescales and
targets to which the people responsible for managing the delivery
of each commitment are now working. The Plan shows the senior
officials responsible for driving each agenda, as well as the
details of the officials responsible for each commitment. Progress
will be monitored and reviewed regularly by the Ministerial Science
3.1 As a result of SR2000, the Science Budget,
administered by the Director General of the Research Councils
in the Office of Science and Technology, will increase in cash
terms by a total of £725 million over the three years 2001-02
to 2003-04 (the SR2000 period). In the final year, the Science
Budget will be £2,155 million. These additions, taken together
with an increase already planned between 2000-01 and 2001-02 mean
that the Science Budget is set to grow by an average of 7 per
cent per year in real terms over the next three years.
3.2 Details of the outcome of the SR2000
for the Science Budget and of the allocations of the budget among
the Research Councils, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy
of Engineering are set out in "The Science Budget 2001-02
to 2003-04", published by the Department of Trade and Industry
on 22 November. (See the Office of Science and Technology website
3.3 A total of £252 million has been
added to the Science Budget over the SR2000 period for investment
in three cross-Council programmes in key areas of science:
Genomics: following the publication
in the summer of 2000 of the draft human genome, in which the
UK played a prominent part, the Government is investing a further
£110 million to build on earlier investments, increase the
level of research in the UK and so ensure that the UK can remain
at the leading edge of this crucial area of science. Genomics
research will lead to the development of new diagnostics, drugs
and materials and will open up new perspectives across biology
and the study of the natural environment.
E-science increasingly involves
science done through distributed global collaborations enabled
by the Internet, using very large data collections, high-power
computing resources and high performance visualisation. In some
areas, the size and complexity of the data generated by scientific
investigation is stretching present computing capabilities to
the limit and it will not be long before this starts to act as
a constraint on the pursuit of science itself. This is a global
problem to which the UK needs to contribute if it is to obtain
maximum benefit from the solutions that are needed. To address
this, the Government is investing £98 million to tackle key
computing problems across a range of scientific disciplines, with
additional investment to develop core generic technologies. This
investment is very important for large scale, modern science,
and is also likely to have high-profile industrial implications
over the coming decade as the next generation of e-science enables
the next generation of e-commerce;
Basic technology: the Government
is investing £44 million in a multidisciplinary research
programme which is designed to create fundamental new capabilities
which will form the basis of the industries of the future. Likely
areas of investment include nanotechnology, quantum computing,
photonics and sensors.
3.4 The new £1 billion Science Research
Investment Fund (SRIF) will be invested in further renewing and
developing of the infrastructure of the science and engineering
base. SRIF is a partnership comprising the Government and the
Wellcome Trust, with the Wellcome Trust contributing £225
million over the two years of the Fund. SRIF will build on the
Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF) which ends in 2001-02 and will
have provided £750 million for science infrastructure, also
a partnership with the Wellcome Trust. JIF has been run as a competition.
SRIF will have four streams:
£675 million for universities
to fund new building, refurbishment and equipment from the DTI
Science Budget (for the UK) and DfEE (via the Higher Education
Funding Council for England) (for England only). Decisions on
allocation will be made early in 2001 on a formula basis linked
to research excellence and the volume of research undertaken;
a £150 million fund provided
by the Wellcome Trust for investment in buildings for sciences
within the Wellcome Trust remit drawn from top-rated but unmet
bids submitted to JIF;
a separate £75 million of Wellcome
Trust funding for biomedical science project related equipment/refurbishment,
run on the basis of competitive bidding from universities; and
£100 million to be retained
by the Office of Science and Technology to modernise research
council institutes and to contribute to large national projects.
3.5 The expectation is that universities
should provide from own or third party resources funds for 25
per cent of the investment they undertake.
3.6 The Government has announced a £140
million Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) for England jointly
funded from the Science Budget and by DfEE, through the Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), to build on universities'
potential as drivers of growth in the knowledge economy. This
will form a permanent third stream of funding for universities,
incorporating the existing Higher Education Reach-Out to Business
and the Community fund (HEROBC). In addition to HEIF, one further
round of University Challenge (with £15 million available)
and one further round of Science Enterprise Challenge (also with
£15 million available) will be held. The Government is also
making £10 million available next year to encourage the commercialisation
of research carried out in the public sector. The details of how
these various programmes are to be run will be announced in due
3.7 After three decades in which, on average,
the PhD stipend has barely increased in real terms, the Government
has signalled a decisive shift. Following increases in PhD student
stipends announced in 1998, the Government has recently announced
further increases of just under a quarter over the next three
years. This will take the basic stipend from £6,800 this
academic year to £9,000 in 2003-04. Separately, the Government
has committed to provide, jointly with the Wolfson Foundation,
some £4 million each year over five years to enable universities
to recruit, reward, and develop researchers of outstanding achievement
and potential. The scheme will be run by the Royal Society and
awards made under it will be known as Wolfson-Royal Society Research
4. ISSUES RAISED
Issue 1What the Department sees as the
purpose of the "Excellence and Opportunity" White Paper
and in what way it represents a progression from Realising Our
The White Paper "Excellence and Opportunitya
science and innovation policy for the 21st century" sets
out the Government's strategy for science and innovation.
It outlines the actions that Government is taking,
and intends to take, to build upon the UK's record of scientific
excellence, and to translate the fruits of our scientific research
and invention into products and services that will improve the
economic and social well-being of all the people of the UK. There
are three main areas of action:
maintaining and enhancing the excellence
of the science base;
opening up opportunities for innovation;
ensuring that people have a confident
relationship with science (so that it is seen as an opportunity
and not a threat).
"Excellence and Opportunity" builds
on what has already been achieved following the 1993 Science White
Paper. It represents a significant development in several important
funding for Higher Education Institutions
(HEIs). The White Paper explicitly recognises that, while different
higher education institutions have different missions which they
should carry out in different ways, knowledge transfer is a core
mission alongside teaching and research. As already noted in paragraph
3.6 of this memorandum, the Government is introducing a Higher
Education Innovation Fund. This will build on the potential of
universities and HE colleges as drivers of growth in the knowledge
economy and will increase their capabilities to work with industry,
particularly small firms;
an explicit recognition that Government
departments can play a role in encouraging innovation through
the way they pursue their objectives, whether framing regulation,
purchasing and delivering services, managing and controlling risks.
The White Paper proposes measures to encourage this:
Government Departments with an
interest in science are being asked to publish science and innovation
strategies, drawing on Foresight, which focus on how they can
maximise the potential of science and technology activities and
how they can drive innovation. The strategies will cover arrangements
for improving connections with relevant science and technology
overseas, as well as arrangements for commercial exploitation
of research, following recommendations from the Council for Science
and Technology. And they will say how departments are encouraging
innovation, through their approach to regulation, to procurement,
and to the services they offer. The Ministerial Science Group,
involving representatives of the devolved assemblies and supported
by the Chief Scientific Adviser, will oversee the strategies;
a new programme, the new Small
Business Research Initiative (SBRI), to encourage more high-tech
small firms to start up, or to develop new research capacity,
so stimulating innovation throughout the economy. This is inspired
by the US Small Business Innovation Research Fund. Under SBRI,
departments and Research Councils are opening up, to small firms,
R&D procurement programmes worth up to £1 billion, with
the target of procuring £50 million of research under these
programmes from small firms. Each participating department will
aim to procure at least 2.5 per cent of their relevant requirements
from small firms. Research Councils will move to meet the target
over time, drawing on new money;
seeking to have public sector research
establishments, as well as HEIs, embrace a more entrepreneurial
role. They will be given an explicit knowledge transfer mission
and the managerial responsibilities and freedoms to fulfil it.
A culture of managed risk-taking is being promoted by, for example
the publication of new guidelines on incentives for public sector
research staff and the management of possible conflicts of interest.
Financial support will be provided in the form of £10 million
to commercialise research done in the public sector, including
the National Health Service. A new source of advice will also
be available from Partnerships UK, a new public-private partnership
established to support the public sector in PPP transactions;
new Government guidelines will set
out a clear presumption that departments should assign the IP
arising from Government-funded research to research providers,
which are generally better placed to undertake commercial exploitation
of the results.
Issue 2By what process were the allocations
The Science Budget settlement reflected many
of the main strands of a cross-Departmental review of science
research funding (see "Cross Cutting Study of Science Research
FundingAnalysis, Arguments and Proposals", at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sr2000/associated/science-231100.pdf
which concentrated in particular on the Science Budget and DfEE's
Higher Education research budget. Review members spent time visiting
universities to see for themselves research work in progress and
to hold discussions with vice-chancellors. The consultations with
academics and with business, led by the Minister for Science and
Innovation, Lord Sainsbury, also contributed to the review and
the development of the White Paper.
In order to inform the cross-cutting review
and to help in the process of identifying science research priorities,
the Director-General of Research Councils (DGRC), undertook a
series of consultative meetings with key players with an interest
in the science and engineering base. These included the Research
Councils, the higher education funding councils, the universities,
medical charities which sponsor research. After the SR2000 outcome
was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in July 2000,
DGRC began the process which led to the recommendation to the
Secretary of State of how the new funds should be allocated among
the Research Councils. This consisted of a further round of consultative
meetings in the light of the settlement and, in particular, a
series of meetings with all of the Research Council chief executives.
The main objectives of these meetings were (i) to arrive at a
suitable balance of funding for the three cross-Research Council
programmes in genomics, e-science and basic technology and (ii)
to identify those activities that individual councils should be
giving priority to or moving away from.
Issue 3What were the criteria by which
the three priority areas were identified, and what are the objectives
for these research areas?
In deciding the main science research priorities
for the SR2000 period, the following questions were considered:
What are the leading-edge scientific
activities which have potential to add most value to the UK economy
and make most impact on quality of life in the medium to long-term?
Which areas of science research build
on existing strengths of the UK science and engineering base and
of UK industry and so would reinforce areas where the UK already
enjoys a comparative advantage?
Where does the UK need to collaborate
internationlly in order to ensure that our scientists get access
to leading-edge research projects and world-class facilities?
The objectives relating to the three cross-Council
programmes are discussed above in section 3 of this memorandum.
The objectives to which the Councils will each be working in respect
of their own core programmes are set out in the Science Budget
booklet on pages 17 to 30.
Issue 4Where do the "Report on the
North West Science Review" grants appear in the allocations?
The review of North West Science led by Dr Bruce
Smith, which the Government accepted, recommended that £26.2
million should be invested in nine projects. All of these projects
fall under one or other of the three cross-Council programme headings
described above. As a result, the funding required will be found
by the Research Councils from within the allocations made to these
Issue 5What is the £68 million unallocated
As part of the £1 billion Science Research
Investment Fund announced in July 2000, £100 million of capital
was made available for investment in Research Council institutes
and in large national science facilities. This money is intended
to complement, in the Research Council sector, the investment
which is taking place in analogous infrastructure in the universities
through JIF and the remainder of SRIF.
The allocations to the Research Councils announced
on 22 November 2000 included £32 million of this £100
million, leaving £68 million unallocated. The allocation
of £32 million at that stage reflected the need to make some
quick decisions on the highest priority investments to allow planning
to be started so that timely commitments could be entered into
by the Research Councils (see also next section). The allocation
of the remainder of this capital is at present being considered
in the context of the development of a longer-term plan for large
national science facilities and of a review of Research Council
infrastructure priorities, both of which are being led by Dr John
Taylor, DGRC with the full involvement of the Research Councils.
It is expected that the remaining capital will be allocated during
the first quarter of 2001. This capital becomes available in 2002-03
Issue 6How do the figures in table 3 in
the Science Budget publication relate to the figures in table
Table 2 shows the Science Budget (baseline plus
allocations of SR2000 additions to the Science Budget) disaggregated
by Councils and main activity. Table 3 sets out the Science Budget,
HEFCE and Wellcome Trust contributions to the £1 billion
Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF). The reference to the
Science Research Infrastructure Fund in table 2 is a reference
to the first of the four funding streams described in paragraph
3.4 above. It equates to the second line of figures in table 3.
The third line in table 3 (total £100 million)
is made up of contributions from several lines in table 2. The
main component is the £68 million shown in the line entitled
"Capital (not yet allocated)". This is the same £68
million as described in the previous section. The remaining £32
million is not split out in table 2. It was allocated to the Medical
Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research
Council (NERC) and is included in these Councils' individual allocations
tables on pages 17 (MRC£12 million), (BBSRC£10
million) and 21 (NERC£10 million).
1 Memorandum submitted to the House of Commons Science
and Technology Committee by the Office of Science and Technology
in June 2000. Printed in HC466-iv, Session 1999-2000. Back