Letter to the Committee Specialist from
Mr J Stretton, UK Operations, Standard Life, on behalf of the
Ageing Population Panel
Thank you for the invitation to provide a written
submission to the above Inquiry. I have asked that your letter
be copied to the Panel members. They will reply to you directly
if they have any points that they might wish to make in their
personal capacities concerning the Initiative's past activities.
The Panel has a number of general observations
on EQUAL's performance to date, and comments on how EQUAL could
be taken forward using the Foresight process.
The Panel understands that EQUAL was set up
as a cross-Research Councils' activity following publication of
the "Realising Our Potential" White Paper. However,
our overall perception is that the Initiative is not well known
or understood beyond its immediate research community, yet the
Initiative covers issues and challenges which have wider impacts.
A list of EQUAL activities, which the Panel
was given through other routes, indicates that research undertaken
via the Initiative has done good work to date. Although each participating
Research Council has responded well within its specific remit,
the Panel does not perceive strong integration of activities across
different Research Council-funded projects. Looking from the outside,
there does not seem to have been any strong focus or any clear
sense of direction. In other words, the Initiative appears to
have suffered from a minimal attempt to co-ordinate research across
this broad topic.
Research into extending the quality of life
is both sensible and appropriate. The Ageing Population Panel
feels that there is much to be gained from continuing to explore
issues under the broad title of EQUAL. Indeed, the Panel feels
that a more structured EQUAL could be exactly the vehicle to further
research objectives and take forward concepts identified through
the Foresight process.
However, if EQUAL is to realise its full potential,
it must narrow down and focus its aims. It should develop a clear
strategy, which includes an implementation plan (with an explicit
timescale, measurable targets, and some notion of the potential
for exploitation of the research). Its priorities should reflect
(or at least explicitly accommodate) those priorities identified
by the Foresight Ageing Population Paneland other Panels
within Foresightso that EQUAL will not only be a series
of research projects, but a working example of "Foresight
To help meet the objectives, EQUAL should also
extend its networking to facilitate links with the wider community,
including business and commercial groups.
The Panel recognises that for the Initiative
to move forward in a structured and integrated way, more resources
are likely to be required. It urges the Research Councils to consider
how they might make specific resources available through ring-fencing.
24 January 2000